New Year festivities behind us as we enter 2020 with a mixture of hope and fear.

Probably divisions in the country and community are greater than they have been for many a year.

Over the next few weeks people of differing opinions will come together to celebrate the work of Robert Burns.

Yes, nonsense will be talked. Too much drink will be consumed, speakers will talk too long and yet the poet has a message we need to hear.

There is something universal about him and his work. Every nation and community has its Holy Willies, its Cotters, its Unco Guids and its Tam o Shanters.

His sympathies were wide ranging even extending to a pathetic wee field mouse whose protection from the winter has been shattered by his plough.

Who could fail to be touched by the pathos of the last stanza knowing of the vicissitudes of Burns’s life. We can understand those words as Burns’ looked forward and sensed the fragility of his own life.

Still thou art blest compared wi me,

The present only toucheth thee

But och I backward cast ma ee

On prospects drear

An forward thou I cannnae see

I dread and fear.

Burns suppers unite people. They unite people of all religious denominations and none. They unite people who do not drink and those who do. They unite those who read the Sun and those who read the Telegraph.

His is a message that is just as relevant when it was written so long ago. He was no saint but then who is.

I am proud to be Scottish. I am also proud of the poetic legacy Robert Burns has left Scotland and indeed the world. I believe it deserves to be celebrated.

I can’t help but think that one of the best ways to honour that memory and his legacy would be to put into practice those ideals he believed in of love and brotherhood and give substance to his vision of how things ought to be. There is none who would would not say amen to that.

Then let us pray that come it may,

(As come it will for a’ that,)

That Sense and Worth, o’er a’ the earth,

Shall bear the gree, an’ a’ that.

For a’ that, an’ a’ that,

It’s coming yet for a’ that,

That Man to Man, the world o’er,

Shall brothers be for a’ that.