New study to research economic impact of Robert Burns to Scotland

The University of Glasgow will carry out an extensive assessment of the economic value of Robert Burns to Scotland.

Professor Murray Pittock of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University will led the research which is being funded by the Scottish Government.

Detail from the portrait of Robert Burns by the artist Alexander Nasmyth

Robert Burns

The research will assess how much the worldwide fascination with Scotland’s national bard is supporting Scottish business and jobs.

It will also look at the potential for Robert Burns to further support regional inclusive growth – from hotels and restaurants to food, drink and memorabilia.

While there have been studies of the economic impact of cultural industries before, this is believed to be a world first in carrying out a thorough assessment of the economic value of a global icon.

“Tourism and food and drink are two of the three largest industries in Scotland, which in their turn reflect a highly visible national Scottish brand in the global marketplace, a brand which owes an enormous debt to Scotland’s 18th and 19th century history,” said Professor Pittock, who is a Pro-Vice Principal at the University.

“We need to understand the relationship between our culture and our economy more fully in order to maximise our already world-leading position.”

Within the UK, culture and heritage tourism in Scotland attracts more visitors than anywhere outside London. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is second only to Shakespeare among UK writers’ museums in its visitor numbers.

Professor Pittock added: “With up to nine million people now attending Burns Suppers every year across the world and the recent decision by Norwegian Airlines to put his name on the tail fin of one of their planes, the global importance of Burns is established.

The Gilbert Scott Building at the University of Glasgow

Photograph by: DiliffUniversity of Glasgow Gilbert Scott Building

“What is important is to know now is the value he brings to the Scotland, and how he can be used to further enhance our economy.”

The research project will run until the summer of 2019, with an interim report ahead of the Robert Burns season in January.

Minister for International Development and Europe Dr Alasdair Allan said the research would provide valuable knowledge of how the international appeal of Burns could be further harnessed to drive inclusive economic growth for Scotland.

“The report team will link to the South of Scotland Economic Partnership, and to the developing Ayrshire Regional Partnership – two areas of Scotland intrinsically linked with Robert Burns – but will also examine the scope for development across the country as a whole,” he said.

The project will be housed in the Centre for Robert. Burns Studies at the University, which has itself attracted some £4 million of external research funding in the last 10 years.

In addition to a report for the Scottish Government, the centre will host a website on the research and a template with recommendations as to how this process could be repeated for other cultural icons, both in Scotland and internationally.

Professor Gerard Carruthers, Co-Director of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies, said: “More than 250 years after his birth, Robert Burns, his life and work, still holds a continued and growing fascination for a worldwide audience.

“Therefore it’s vital to have a well-researched, clear and up-to-date picture of what this looks like in economic terms – for business, tourism and jobs.”

As far back as 2003 a report by  a World Bank economist calculated Robert Burns generated £157 million per annum for Scotland in tourism and merchandising. That figure is now expected to be much higher.

 

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