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Tartan Day grows a oui bit bigger
FIRST it took Manhattan by storm, now Tartan Day is to be marked in France with a celebration in the centre of Paris. Taking their cue from the Scottish diaspora in North America, fans of all things Scottish will be parading in the centre of the French capital this April
Jacques-Yves Le Touze pour Murdo MacLeod le 28/01/04 17:49

FIRST it took Manhattan by storm, now Tartan Day is to be marked in France with a celebration in the centre of Paris.

Taking their cue from the Scottish diaspora in North America, fans of all things Scottish will be parading in the centre of the French capital this April in a celebration of the Auld Alliance between Scotland and France.

It will involve 350 pipers and an estimated 10,000 other participants marching in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

The Scottish Executive is considering what official support to give to the French Tartan Day celebrations and will this week announce a series of events to mark the 100th anniversary of the ‘Entente Cordiale’, which saw Britain and France agree to co-operate after centuries of conflict.

The French Tartan Day was devised by Richard Duclos, a Breton bagpipe player and tartan enthusiast, and a frequent visitor to Scotland. In addition to promoting the playing of the Scottish bagpipes in France, he devised a special Breton tartan that has now been recognised by the international tartan authorities.

In addition to the parade, which will take place on April 4 in Paris, the day will also feature piping competitions for bands and soloists, and an ‘elegance competition’ for the most stylishly-dressed man in a kilt.

Duclos’s wife, Marie, explained: "We have a lot of people here who love to wear the kilt and the tartan and they don’t get many chances to wear their kilts. So we saw what they were doing in the United States and Canada and thought it was so wonderful to see them celebrating their Scottish culture and the impact Scotland has had on the world. We want to celebrate the connections between our two countries."

She added: "We hope this will grow and grow. There is a tremendous interest in France in Scottish culture and music."

France’s Tartan Day has the support of a number of MSPs who have urged First Minister Jack McConnell to attend in Paris and show support for the occasion.

Eleanor Scott, Green Party list MSP for the Highlands and Islands - who raised the issue at Holyrood - said: "I’m glad to hear the Executive seems to be taking an interest in this event. There is tremendous goodwill in Europe for the Scots and we should be making the most of it to attract them to come and visit.

"The current situation means American visitors may be reluctant to fly abroad. We should instead do as much as we can to attract visitors from other parts of Europe."

In recent years, the number of French tourists has risen as better air connections have made it easier for the French to mark the Auld Alliance with their wallets.

In 2002, the latest year for which figures are available, French visitors made 103,000 holiday trips to Scotland, an increase of 147% compared to the previous year. Over the same period, the number of visits to the UK as a whole rose by only 6.5%.

In 2002, French tourists brought an estimated £30m into the Scottish economy.

This week the Scottish Executive will launch a programme for the series of events to mark the centenary of the Entente Cordiale, signed in 1904 between the British and French governments and which ended centuries of military and colonial rivalry. The Entente paved the way for the co-operation that saw Britain and France fight on the same side in the First World War.

McConnell will launch the programme at the main office of the Royal Bank of Scotland - one of the biggest Scottish companies to be involved in France - this Thursday and will visit the country in February to promote Scottish business.

He said: "We have much to gain from forging a new alliance in the 21st century. France is our major European trading partner and we are keen to develop that even further."

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