Giant Pandas on their way to Edinburgh

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First Minister Alex Salmond has welcomed the news that the UK’s first breeding pair of pandas will arrive on Sunday, December 4 at Edinburgh Airport to take up residence in their new home at Edinburgh Zoo.

The panda’s arrival will coincide with a visit to China by the First Minister who will be there to sign a cultural exchange agreement and discuss business and investment opportunities.

Speaking about the imminent arrival to Scotland of one of the world’s most iconic species, Mr Salmond said that Tian Tian and Yang Guang would be afforded a warm welcome from the Scottish public.

The First Minister said: “Having the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo is a considerable honour and will be a huge draw for visitors and will give a welcome boost to the economy and to tourism.

“Securing the loan of the pandas symbolises the great and growing friendship between Scotland and China and testament to the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland’s world-class reputation for research, science and conservation.  It is a fantastic opportunity to further strengthen our business, cultural and diplomatic links with China and for people in Scotland.

“The importance of Scotland’s relationship with China is underlined by our China Plan.  Since it was published, we have been working hard to deepen those ties.

“It is vital that the Scottish Government, our agencies and Scotland’s business and education organisations do all they can to continue advancing Sino-Scottish relations, particularly as we pursue opportunities to generate economic growth and build a stronger Scotland.

“We particularly want our young people to learn more about pandas and we have an exciting education programme to bring alive the many wonderful learning opportunities offered by the pandas’ ten-year stay in Scotland.”

The First Minister will visit China from December 3 – 11, when he will take part in talks with Chinese Ministers on a range of business issues and opportunities from investment to energy.

This follows Mr Salmond’s two previous successful visits to China, which secured valuable partnerships for Scottish business.

The Scottish Government is leading a sustained programme of engagement with China for the mutual benefit of both nations.  On May 7, 2008 the Scottish Government published its refreshed China Plan.  

In line with both the Government Economic Strategy and the International Framework, the China Plan sets out the Government’s aims and aspirations for Scotland’s engagement with China.  The Plan was developed in consultation with a number of key stakeholders across Scotland.

The Plan identifies key areas of collaboration through existing and potential links between Scotland and China in the fields of business, education, science, culture and tourism.  The Plan also details a set of targets for engagement with China with which the Government, its agencies and Non-Departmental Public Bodies can measure progress.