It is an exciting time to be the Convener of such an important and highly regarded organisation as the Saltire Society. My journey to this point as a Society member has I hope given me insight into the scope and variety of our work.
Over the twenty-five years of my membership I have enjoyed a variety of roles that have let me understand how comprehensive and valuable a body the Society is.
As people who believed strongly in the importance of the cultural life around us, it was only natural for my wife Stella and I to join the Society when we came back to live in Scotland. Having spent my childhood at school in Melrose in the Scottish Borders I was already well versed in our great traditions. Returning to live in Glasgow many years later joining the Society felt right as a way of making our own small contribution to Scottish cultural life as we became part of it and began to learn more about it.
We were too busy to do much more than merely support it via our membership at that stage and knew little about the Society's wider role nor did we investigate the local branch and its activities.
But as our the demands on our time changed we began to attend branch meetings in Glasgow and discovered much of interest. Not least the lively and interesting people who make up the membership. Somewhat to my surprise I found myself becoming the Glasgow Branch Convener and Representative on the National Council! My learning journey moved up a gear as in that role I came to understand and appreciate more fully what the Society was, how much it had done and still does of huge value to the country.
I knew of the branch activities of course, but I soon discovered something of the role of the Society on the national stage. I became aware of its influence for the greater good in Scotland. Over its 75 year history it has clearly played an important part in the re-building our national confidence and celebrated the success of, our Scottish tradition through its campaigns, its strongly held beliefs and its determined advocacy.
I also began to appreciate the value and the status of the Awards which the Society gives in order recognise and celebrate Scottish achievement. By attending the ceremonies, by meeting those experts who volunteer as panel members and judges, giving so much of their time and expertise, as well as learning through Council business something of the complexity and difficulty which the successful administration requires, I was hugely impressed.
You have only to meet those competing for the Awards, from Civil Engineering, Housing, and Design to Song and Literature, to know how much they are valued and how much a commendation or prize means to those who win them. These awards celebrate what is best but at the same time serve to encourage and nurture for the future.
Of course things have changed after 75 years of endeavour. I have been fortunate to be closely involved with the running Saltire at a time of new momentum following the Review by Lord Cullen's Commission into our future. A new Executive Director, exciting plans for the years ahead and a conscious drive to expand, are all testament to our vitality.
However, all that we do and aspire to do as a national, independent Society in fostering and celebrating Scottish culture depends not only on the commitment and hard work of those leading and working for Saltire but also upon the wider membership.
Our members by their range and numbers give the Society its authority, they contribute to our financial security – and hence independence - and, in the end, are its very life blood.
The somewhat passive start to my membership I see as still being important and commend such to those who do not feel they have the time or the inclination to become more involved - anyway at first! For others, Branch activities can be rewarding. For all, we look to providing increasing information and opportunities to help influence and shape the exciting future for our cultural life; something which has seldom been so important.
David Ward, Convener Saltire Society