The efforts of a group trying to boost the global awareness and importance of Arbroath Abbey has received a massive boost.
Following a meeting in the summer between the Arbroath Abbey Action Group (AAAG) and Fiona Hyslop MSP, cabinet secretary for Culture and External Affairs, the minister has helped to pave the way to forging potentially significant links with France and the USA.
Ms Hyslop has written to the French Consul General Pierre-Alain Coffinier and Cynthia MacLeod, superintendent of the Independence Natural History Park in Philadelphia, introducing the group and encouraging the parties to pursue cultural engagement.
In her letter to the Consul General she highlighted the already established link between Arbroath and the Abbey at Thiron Gardais which celebrates its 900th anniversary next year.
Ms Hyslop, who visited the Independence Park on July 4, has, in contacting Ms Macleod, sought specifically to encourage exploration of the widely acknowledged connections between the Declaration of Arbroath and the American Declaration of Independence.
Harry Ritchie, chairman of the AAAG, welcomed the Cabinet Secretary’s demonstration of support for the group’s work.
He commented: “During our meeting with Fiona Hyslop earlier this year she was extremely complimentary about our efforts to raise awareness of the significance of the Abbey and the Declaration and bring about an increase in visitor numbers to the town.
“She mentioned then that she might look to provide a formal introduction to both the Consul General and Superintendent to assist that work. We are obviously thrilled she’s done that for us.
Angus South MSP Graeme Dey, who brought Ms Hyslop to Arbroath to visit the Abbey and meet with the AAAG of which he is a member, pointed out the possible economic benefits for Arbroath of better capitalising on the Abbey’s place in history.
“This isn’t just about properly recognising the importance of Arbroath Abbey and the Declaration, it’s about taking advantage of that and giving the town, its shops and other businesses a financial boost,” he said.
“We have in our midst a fantastic asset with significant connections with France, and perhaps more importantly the USA. Fiona Hyslop’s high level formal introduction paves the way for the group, working in conjunction with Historic Scotland and Angus Council, to take that to another level.”