FROM Iona to Antarctica, Scots across the globe have put paintbrush to paper to create a giant version of a Robert Burns poem – and today it is being unveiled in the heart of the Capital.

The 15 metre by 10m banner hangs opposite the Fruitmarket Gallery in Market Street, featuring the words from two verses of one of the bard's best-loved poems, A Man's a Man For A' That.

Each of 435 individual letters were contributed by Scots from all over the world, then carefully arranged and printed by artist Stephen Raw.

The banner has been created to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the poet's birth, and will hang for a month at the height of the festival season.

The project was organised by the Scottish Poetry Library in Crichton's Close, off the Royal Mile. Director Robyn Marsack said that more than 600 contributions had been received, so Mr Raw had to choose which ones to use in order to make the most attractive combinations.

She said: "I'm absolutely thrilled, it's very dramatic. The thing that I love about it is that I thought it might be visually pleasing, but you wouldn't necessarily realise that it was a Burns poem, but in fact it's perfectly clear what it is. It's a visual celebration of a very great poem, made by a great many hands."

Famous participants include Poet Laureate Carol Ann Duffy, who painted a letter 'r', Culture Minister Michael Russell, who submitted a D, and poet Christine De Luca, who did an A.

Also among the contributors was Graham Niven, a Scot working at the British Antarctic Survey's Halley research station, who contributed a 'P', because there was a penguin colony near the base.

ImageIn Argentina, four members of the group Scotland in Argentina got together to paint their letters, and the Swedish Bergen-Scottish society contributed a letter N.

Other artists abroad included Louise Dodds, who sent at D from Dubai, and Rachel Caplan, who created a C in San Francisco.

Painting sessions were held at schools and community centres across Scotland, and there was even one for inmates at Saughton Prison.

A workshop was arranged at the Scottish Parliament for politicians to make their contributions, including Lothians MSP Robin Harper, who said: "Painting my letter was very enjoyable, and a welcome distraction from my Parliamentary duties.

"It was great to see so many MSPs involved and I'm delighted. It's a very welcome project, and its different colours and styles reflect modern Scots society."

(One has to wonder how many of those involved in this wonderful project are aware that Robert Burns was an ardent Freemason - Ed.)