Scotland and Poland have a strong history of cultural cooperation which we must build on, Culture and External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has said.
Speaking during her visit to Poland Ms Hyslop said that as well as valuing the economic contribution Poles make to Scottish society, it was important to recognise the strong cultural links between the two countries going back centuries.
During her visit on Monday and Tuesday of this week, Ms Hyslop visited Krakow – the seventh Unesco City of Literature. Edinburgh was the first City of Literature and the two cities are working together and sharing experiences.
She hosted lunch for key Polish cultural figures, including representatives of the Krakow Festival, the Director of the International Cultural Centre in Krakow, the Deputy Mayor of Krakow for Culture and City Promotion, and the Head of the Polish Book Institute.
Ms Hyslop also toured the Royal Castle in Warsaw and met the Minister of Culture Malgorzata Omilanowska and National Heritage and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Ms Hyslop said:
“From my visit I am confident that there is a real opportunity for Scotland and Poland to cooperate around Culture and Heritage.
“From the Polish Great Map of Scotland, to the story of Wojtek the Soldier bear and the troops he helped, Scottish and Polish history are intertwined. As early as 1576, there were enough Scots living across Poland to form twelve “Brotherhoods” in the twelve Polish towns in which they lived.
“Now Poles are very much part of Scotland’s future. Our Polish community has grown by 52,000 since 2001 and we now often hear Polish names in the playgrounds of our schools and nurseries – a sign of our growing number of young Polish families.
“We have Polish shops and thriving Polish culture to match. A homesick Pole in Scotland doesn’t have to go far to find pierogi to remind them of home.
“It’s no surprise then that Polish culture has contributed to Scottish culture, and that there are so many exciting examples of cultural collaboration – whether in music, theatre or the visual arts.
“Co-operation between our countries can only enrich both our cultures. We have so much to give each other. I’m proud of the links between Scotland and Poland and want to build on them, and we will be following this up in the coming weeks with our Polish Counterparts.”
As early as 1576, there were enough Scots living across Poland to form twelve “Brotherhoods” in the twelve Polish towns in which they lived. And in 1606, Scots in Poland numbered so many that Scottish immigration was considered a threat.
In a debate in London on whether or not to naturalise Scottish people living in England, MPs against warned about the “multiplicities of the Scots in Polonia” and suggested England might become similarly “over-run”.
Scotland has a large, established Polish community of around 61,000 people – just over one per cent of the entire population. Poland is the highest reported place of birth outside the UK and Polish people make up around three per cent of the cities of Edinburgh and Aberdeen.