As 2012 draws to an end, I want to express my thanks to all those in the Borders, around Scotland, in England and overseas who contributed so much to the Forest Pitch arts and football project.
Most recently there were the 100 schoolchildren, and all the Borders Forest Trust volunteers, who joined us for a great day planting hundreds of native trees at the site near Selkirk. These will transform the temporary pitch into a living sculpture that people can visit and enjoy for decades to come.
On top of this there were the 2,000 children who entered our national strip design competition, the 500 who attended the matches, all those who got involved through social media and by listening to the live webcast. Then there were players, the coaching staff and all those who came along to talks and discussions.
Forest Pitch touched many lives in all sorts of different ways and I am proud that so many people took time to get to know about the players – many of whom are new to Scotland. Some faced death, torture or persecution in their home countries because they stood up for their beliefs, or for the rights of others. Some are here for love, family or work.
These are ancient themes and take us back to the story of Christmas itself.
All our players are people who found a warm and generous welcome here, and have an enthusiasm and energy to contribute to Scotland.
Looking to the future, there are still the book and film of the Forest Pitch project to come. But, by far the most important thing, is the new sculpture that is taking root where the games were played this summer. I hope that people will enjoy watching it grow, with its fabulous mix of oak, birch, hawthorn and other species.
When so much of our land has been turned over to commercial forestry, it has been great to do something which is a reminder of Scotland’s natural beauty and diversity.