Robert Burns is worth £203 million in direct value to Scotland, new report reveals


10 January 2020
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The results of a year-long investigation into how much the worldwide fascination with Robert Burns is supporting Scottish business and jobs have today been revealed by the University of Glasgow.

The year-long study funded by the Scottish Government and led by the University’s Professor Murray Pittock revealed that Scotland’s national bard Robert Burns is worth just over £200 million a year to the Scottish economy and the poet’s brand is worth nearly £140 million annually.

Within the UK, culture and heritage tourism in Scotland attracts more visitors than anywhere outside London. Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway is second only to Shakespeare among UK writers’ museums in its visitor numbers.

Enhancing the Robert Burns effect

Born in 1759, Robert Burns’ poems and songs have been translated into every major language, and his influence has extended far beyond Scotland. Some 9.5 million people worldwide are estimated to attend Burns Suppers annually.

The new research proposes ways in which that Scotland could make even more of its national bard, in economic and cultural terms. The recommendations include:

  • Recognition of the work carried out by the Robert Burns World Federation in supporting Burns in schools and local authorities in Ayrshire and Arran and Dumfries and Galloway to work more closely with them. That Education Scotland is pro-active in disseminating good quality practice in Burns-related education in schools with the support of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies
  • That the Scottish Government should establish a Burns Humanitarian Ambassadors programme or award to recognise work carried out in Scotland and abroad which supports the values with which Burns, and the country are both associated with
  • Consider recommending the renaming of Prestwick Airport after Robert Burns to its new owners
  • Signage and infrastructure to be improved on the M74 to better reflect Burns’ appeal and the strong pull of cultural tourism in the Ayrshires and south west of Scotland
  • Greater awareness of evidence for higher cultural tourism spend, the future investigation of the effective development of the Mozart brand in Austria and the incorporation of Burns Supper Information on the Scotland’s Winter Festivals website.
  • Greater alignment between food, produce and cultural tourism in Ayrshire and Arran and Dumfries and Galloway regional tourism plans

The Burns brand

The biggest single source of economic impact is Burns-related tourism – it brings in just under £155 million, almost two-thirds of which (£121 million) goes to Ayrshire and Arran where the poet was born and lived most of his life.

Burns Night, the celebration which takes place on the anniversary of the poet’s birth on 25 January, has a turnover of £11 million in Scotland.

Burns Festivals throughout Scotland have an estimated value of £7 million to Scotland’s economy. While spending on Burns-related food and drink is estimated to be £20 million and University research and education on Burns is estimated to bring £500,000 a year.

Universal appeal

Professor Pittock of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University’s College of Arts said: “More than 250 years after his birth, Robert Burns, his life and work, still holds a huge fascination for a worldwide audience. 

“Burns has universal appeal with his work being translated into every single major language including Russian, German, French and Chinese. While Auld Lang Syne is our New Year anthem and has been performed by everyone from Elvis Presley to Jimi Hendrix. 

“We are very fortunate to have such an iconic Scottish figure like Burns. We have been able to put a value of over £200 million on the tourism, products, festivals and estimate an additional embedded brand value of almost £140 million which Burns brings to Scotland. What it shows is that Burns the Brand makes a huge contribution to the economy of Scotland."

“We hope that our research will help to inform and encourage Scotland to continue to develop plans to promote Burns at home and abroad. It also shows the great potential of Burns’ brand to support regional inclusive growth from hotels and restaurants to food, drink and memorabilia.”   

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