An Aberdeen man is set to make a virtual toast to mark Burns Night to foreign office staff around the world.
Aberdonian Charles Hay, who is based in Malaysia as the UK’s high commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, is to raise a glass to Scotland’s national bard in a huge virtual Burns Supper.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) is hosting the online gathering this evening to mark Burns Night, to which all staff in Scotland and at embassies and consulates around the globe are invited.
All 17,300 of the organisation’s staff have been invited.
Charles said: “One of the great things about being in this country is the incredible connections between Malaysia and Scotland.
“For example, there’s a branch campus of Heriot Watt University, and at the UK Embassy, you can see the insignia of the 5th Royal Malay Regiment, who are twinned with the King’s Own Scottish Borderers, and they still wear tartan and play the pipes.
“Normally, we have a big Burns Night celebration and there’s a thriving St Andrew’s Society here, but this year we’ll obviously all be celebrating quietly at home, raising a glass though in the usual way.”
Scots working for the UK Government in countries including Bahrain, Chile, China, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mauritius, Pakistan, Peru, Tunisia, and Turkey are among those participating in the virtual Burns Supper.
Foreign Office Minister Wendy Morton said: “Scots are at the very heart of helping FCDO be a force for good around the world and staff were keen to pay tribute to Robert Burns despite Covid-19.
“Lockdown restrictions might mean that the many Burns Suppers our Embassies usually organise around the world to help showcase Scotland cannot happen this year, but that isn’t stopping us from celebrating.
“Robert Burns was very much an internationalist, so I’m sure he would have approved of the UK government bringing the COP26 climate change summit to Glasgow, and our work promoting human rights and helping the world’s poorest countries.”
The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab recently announced that FCDO is to “significantly increase” its presence in Scotland following the merger of the Foreign Office with the Department for International Development in September.
The move includes plans to add to the 1,106 staff already helping to deliver the UK’s £10 billion foreign aid budget from FCDO’s Lanarkshire base.