Tomorrow is Burns night, and already all over the world Scots and the Scottish-at-heart are coming together to celebrate his life and work.

I am humbled that this week I will be among thousands who will commemorate the memory of Robert Burns as across the globe suppers are held in honour of our treasured national bard.

My own roots are at the heart of Burns country in Alloway, Ayrshire. I used to catch my bus to school in Ayr, outside the cottage where he was born in 1759, and where the first Burns Supper was held by his friends in 1801.

They started a tradition that would last for centuries. The first Burns Supper outside Scotland was held in London in 1810 and others in India and Canada followed a few years later. And tomorrow, for the first time in over 200 years, Burns’ cottage in Alloway will once again host a supper in honour of its world-famous resident.

If you’re celebrating Burns Night it’s quite possible that you are a fan of the great man’s poetry, songs, sentiment and commentary on the condition of human kind. The messages and observations in his poetry and songs are as relevant and heartfelt today as they were 250 years ago.

While my passion and enthusiasm for Burns stems from my hometown, I have been privileged to join international communities often many hundreds of miles away from the birthplace I share with the Bard – to commemorate his priceless contribution to our society.

Burns was a humanitarian and internationalist who spoke of the universal condition. He embraced Scotland’s unique landscape, culture and people, and importantly the Scots language to celebrate Scotland in poem and song.

Burns was celebrated as a pioneer of his generation, with his dynamic vision inspiring the founders of socialism and liberalism.

Robert Burns is undisputedly an international cultural icon because his work resonates with people on a global scale. There are more statues dedicated to Burns around the world than any other non-religious figure after Queen Victoria and Christopher Columbus. His works have been published in many different languages, and his renowned ‘Auld Lang Syne’ is recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as one of the top three most popular songs. To this day Burns’ work touches the hearts and minds of people the world o’er.

Today, I think that Burns would have supported Scotland’s determination to continue to be an outward facing nation, keen to share our talents, our goods and our ideas with those around the world.

One of the key ways we achieve this today is through our membership of the EU. More than simply an economic union, the EU is a union of solidarity, social protection and support – all values which resonate with Burns’ poetry.

I spoke at a conference this week at Edinburgh University on the future of international cultural relations alongside speakers from Germany and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. They spoke about the need in foreign policy to see through others’ eyes and ringing in my ears were the words of Burns “the gift to see ourselves as others see us”.

Burns advocating respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights is just as relevant today, whether in welfare policy, food banks, trade union legislation or the human rights debate.

In a letter to Mrs Frances Anna Dunlop he wrote: “Whatever mitigates the woes or increases the happiness of others, this is my criterion for goodness; and whatever injures society at large, or any individual in it, this is my measure of iniquity.”

Scotland is committed to strengthening our role as a good global citizen, to attempt to meet Burns’ criterion for goodness. For example, I am deeply proud of the welcome we have given the hundreds of refugees who have recently come to Scotland from Syria.

I am proud that the vast majority of Scots resisted suggestions that we were too full, too busy, our resources too stretched, and instead offered the hand of friendship, sharing what we have with those in need.

As Burns put it:

“Man's inhumanity to man

Makes countless thousands mourns.”

The truly human nature of the welcome received by refugees – from hand knitted hats and scarves to home cooked meals – shows the determination of Scots to live up to Burns’ values.

What could be more relevant today than the Bard’s famous words:

For a' that, an' a' that,

It's coming yet for a' that,

That Man to Man, the world o'er,

Shall brithers be for a' that.