Scotland’s national bard is worth just over £200 million a year to the Scottish economy, a report by the University of Glasgow has revealed.
The year long study funded by the Scottish Government and led by the University’s Professor Murray Pittock assessed how much the worldwide fascination with Robert Burns is supporting Scottish business and jobs.
It found that Burns economic and cultural importance to the Scottish economy is now estimated to be £203 million annually, while the bard’s brand is worth £139.5 million a year.
While there have been studies of the economic impact of cultural Burns industries before – by economist Lesley Campbell (2003) and Moffat Centre (2005) who both valued Burns impact to Scotland at £157 million – this is believed to be the first assessment carried out on this scale.
In the last 20 years, there has been a substantial series of changes in Scotland recognising the poet’s importance, including the opening of the £23 million Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in 2009, which has helped transform the visitor experience.
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.
The new University of Glasgow research proposes ways in which Scotland could make even more of its national bard, in economic and cultural terms.
Professor Pittock, of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University’s College of Arts, said: “More than 250 years after his birth, Robert Burns, his life and work, still holds a huge fascination for a worldwide audience.
“Burns has universal appeal with his work being translated into every single major language including Russian, German, French and Chinese, while Auld Lang Syne is our New Year anthem and has been performed by everyone from Elvis Presley to Jimi Hendrix.
“We are very fortunate to have such an iconic Scottish figure like Burns.
“We have been able to put a value of over £200 million on the tourism, products and festivals, and estimate an additional embedded brand value of almost £140 million which Burns brings to Scotland.
“What it shows is that ‘Burns the Brand’ makes a huge contribution to the economy of Scotland.
“We hope our research will help to inform and encourage Scotland to continue to develop plans to promote Burns at home and abroad.
“It also shows the great potential of Burns’ brand to support regional inclusive growth from hotels and restaurants to food, drink and memorabilia.”
Economy Secretary Derek Mackay said: “I welcome this report and the work conducted by Professor Pittock to explore the contribution of Robert Burns to the Scottish economy.
“It goes without saying that the cultural and societal importance of Burns the brand is enormous.
“In fact, the report highlights that the values and identity of Robert Burns – the lover of nature, the innovator, and the humanitarian – resonate with the identity of modern Scotland.”
The biggest single source of economic impact is Burns-related tourism – it brings in just under £155 million, almost two-thirds of which (£121 million) goes to Ayrshire and Arran where the poet was born and lived most of his life.
Burns Night, the celebration which takes place on the anniversary of the poet’s birth on January 25, has a turnover of £11 million in Scotland.
Burns Festivals throughout Scotland have an estimated value of £7 million to Scotland’s economy.
And spending on Burns-related food and drink is estimated to be £20 million, while University research and education on Burns is estimated to bring £500,000 a year.
The recommendations to further enhance Scotland’s economy by harnessing the Burns brand to drive economic growth for Scotland include:
• Recognition of the work carried out by the Robert Burns World Federation in supporting Burns in schools
• That Education Scotland is pro-active in disseminating good quality practice in Burns-related education in schools with the support of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies.
• That the Scottish Government should establish a Burns Humanitarian Ambassadors programme or award to recognise work carried out in Scotland and abroad which supports the values with which Burns, and the country are both associated with.
• Consider recommending the renaming of Prestwick Airport after Robert Burns to its new owners.
• Signage and infrastructure to be improved on the M74 to better reflect Burns’ appeal and the strong pull of cultural tourism in the Ayrshires and south west of Scotland.
• Greater awareness of evidence for higher cultural tourism spend, the future investigation of the effective development of the Mozart brand in Austria and the incorporation of Burns Supper Information on the Scotland’s Winter Festivals website.
• Greater alignment between food, produce and cultural tourism in Ayrshire and Arran and Dumfries and Galloway regional tourism plans.