ROBERT Burns is one of Scotland’s most important cultural icons, but although Scottish culture is deeply and widely valued both here and abroad, we seldom ask ourselves the question in cash terms: how much is it worth?

To some readers this will seem a crude question, almost an offensive one – how can we put a price on culture?

But as the report I have just completed (with the support of researcher Dr Joel Ambroisine) shows, we understand how interconnected our society and economy is much better when we can put a value on culture: and we can also defend our culture in a more informed way when we show how much it contributes to the economy.

Culture can save NHS expenditure, it can keep rural infrastructure open, it supports better places to eat and drink, higher house prices and a better social environment. It can be an important part of Regional Inclusive Growth (RIG).

The report addresses all these areas and more.

READ MORE: Robert Burns's legacy ‘worth £200m-a-year’ to Scotland

The Pittock Report on Robert Burns and the Scottish Economy was funded by the Scottish Government in spring 2018, following a debate

in the Scottish Parliament on a motion put down by Joan McAlpine MSP on the Economic Potential of Robert Burns on January 17 that year.

It succeeds previous studies of the value of Burns to the Scottish economy carried out by Lesley Campbell for the BBC’s David Stenhouse (2003) and by the Moffat Centre at Glasgow Caledonian University (2005).

This report is not only new; it is different.

It offers a more comprehensive account of Burns’ role in the Scottish economy in the context of our international footprint and regional inclusive growth and makes recommendations designed to build on that role; it is also intended to be able to act as a template for any future study of the impact of cultural figures on the wider economy.

The report evaluates the value of Burns to tourism, festivals, produce and retail and research, together with an initial estimate of Burns’ brand value to the Scottish brand as a whole, and an assessment of the public and social value deriving from Burns.

It takes particular account of the contemporary policy context of city region deals and the RIG agenda, particularly in the areas of produce, supply chains, SMEs and connectivity and the future role of Prestwick Airport.

It puts the overall annual value of Burns to the Scottish economy at £203m, with a further £139.5m contribution to the value of Scotland itself as a brand, based on a questionnaire with international coverage which asked people how much extra they would pay for Burns-related branding or how willing they were to donate to a Burns-related cause.

The National: Robert Burns

Tourism and tourist-related impact makes up some 75% of the £203m total, with Burns-related festivals being assessed as bringing some £7m of additional economic benefit throughout Scotland. The overall size of Burns-related produce and retail markets was assessed as a minimum of £20m, with the report highlighting good regional practice in linking food, drink and retail to Burns the brand in Ayrshire and Arran and Dumfries and Galloway, while identifying significant opportunities for improvement for consideration by the Ayrshire Regional Economic Partnership and in Dumfries and Galloway.

Some £11m was assessed as being contributed by the impact of the Burns Supper and related activities in Scotland, with a minimum £10m being assessed as Burns’ public value to culture and society. There were a number of recommendations, ranging from the renaming of Prestwick Airport to closer alignment between food, produce and cultural tourism (including Burns tourism) in Ayrshire and Arran and Dumfries and Galloway.

Scottish produce is part of Scottish culture, and Burns is an obvious meeting place for the edible and the poetic.

One of the key findings of the report was that we need to be

better as a country at owning our heritage: the people who live here are the best salesforce for Scottish culture.

So the report highlighted – and those it interviewed strongly fed back-that education and awareness of our culture is centrally important, not just for heritage and pride, but to show the best of Scotland to those who make the effort to come to see it.

With Mozart worth more than $5bn (around £3.8bn) to the Austrian economy a year, the prizes of ownership are high.

The National:

Professor Murray Pittock is pro-vice principal and part of the Centre for Robert Burns Studies at the University of Glasgow.