Festival of Politics 2013: Scottish Independence to be the hot topic

The Scottish independence debate is hotting up just in time for 2013’s Festival of Politics in Edinburgh. We get the lowdown on this year’s main events at the Scottish Parliament.


With the referendum on Scottish independence just over a year away, this year’s Festival of Politics is likely to be under more scrutiny than usual. The 2013 theme is the rather wide-ranging ‘Scotland’s Place in the World’, with topics focusing on the country’s future regardless of the outcome on September 18th 2014. Now in its eighth year, the Festival of Politics brings together a number of leading thinkers and commentators to debate and discuss important issues, including the future of immigration in Scotland, the country’s defence capabilities and the future of the welfare state in Scotland.

The opening discussion, The Power of Cultural Diplomacy and the Power of Small Nations in Overcoming Conflict sees Mark Miller QC, Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee, hosting a debate on the key roles that small nations can play in global cultural diplomacy, and exploring how cultural diplomacy can help countries overcome cultural conflicts. Joining him are Manny Ansar, founder of the Festival in Exile, Artistic Director of Assembly Edinburgh William Burdett-Coutts and US Ambassador Cynthia P Schneider, non-resident senior fellow in the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World at Brookings. Friday 23rd August, 4.30pm – 6.00pm

The Future of Europe and Small Nations event comes at a key time for the economic and political union, with its number set to expand to 28 member states with the inclusion of Croatia – which became a member on July 1st this year, and is expected to join the Schengen area by 2015 – along with the coalition government’s promise to hold a referendum on UK membership of the EU. This event will look at the EU’s ability to attract new members and how this might impact on integration, the potential consequences on smaller member states and how they can make an impact on the international stage. On the panel are Professor Charlie Jeffery of the University of Edinburgh, former Judge of the Court of Justice Sir David Edward, Fabian Zuleeg, chief economist at Brussels’ European Policy Centre and Tim Phillips of the Advisory Committee for the Club de Madrid. Chaired by Peter Jones. Saturday 24th August, 11.30am – 1.00pm

Scotland’s economy post-independence has been a topic of discussion since the early days of the debate on the independence referendum, with much of the focus on the currency used in an independent Scotland. Independence and Economic Issues will begin with a presentation from Dr Angus Armstrong of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and Centre for Macroeconomics, followed by Jeremy Peat, Director of the David Hume Institute, chairing a discussion with Stirling University professor David Bell, Jo Armstrong of the Centre for Public Policy and Relations at Glasgow University’s business school, Executive Editor of The Scotsman Bill Jamieson, and Dr Brian Quinn, Honorary Professor of Economics at the University of Glasgow. Saturday 24th August, 1.00pm – 2.30pm

Focusing on the impact of constitutional change on the culture of Scotland, Culture and Broadcasting will pose questions on whether the country’s artistic, literary and cultural contribution will be enhanced in the event of a Yes vote in next year’s independence referendum, or whether there is evidence that suggests that during the past 300 years of the Union, Scotland has maintained a distinct and vibrant cultural identity. Chaired by former editor of The Scotsman Magnus Linklater, with contributions from Professor Seona Reid, Glasgow School of Art director and former Director of the Scottish Arts Council, James Boyle, chair of the National Library of Scotland, and the British Council in Scotland, journalist and commentator Ruth Wishart and Dr David Elstein, Chair of the openDemocracy organisation and the Broadcasting Policy Group. Saturday 24th August, 2.00pm – 4.00pm

Public Attitudes to Our Constitutional Future will aim to explore people’s attitude to Scottish independence, both in Scotland, and in the rest of the UK. Beginning with a presentation from Strathclyde University’s Professor John Curtice, the session will be chaired by journalist and commentator Iain Macwhirter, who is joined by editor of the Holyrood Magazine Mandy Rhodes, writer and journalist David Walker, Professor Richard Wyn Jones, director of the Wales Governance Centre at the University of Cardiff and Dr Nicola McEwen, Senior Politics Lecturer at the University of Edinburgh. Saturday 24th August, 3.30pm – 5.00pm

The Happy Lands Former First Minister Henry McLeish is joined by panelists director Robert Rae, actor George Wallace, political commentator and author Tom Brown and The Guardian’s Polly Toynbee for a discussion and debate exploring the notions of Identity and Community. Starting off with a showing of The Happy Lands, a film focusing on Fife’s mining communities at the time of the 1926 strike, and mapping the events that many believe led to Scotland’s identification with socialism and internationalism. The film asks the questions that many Scots feel are being avoided in the independence referendum. Saturday 24th August, 5.00pm – 7.30pm

How do artists create work in a social and political context, and what happens when art challenges the status quo? Linda Fabiani chairs a discussion on Politics and Art, and is joined by artists including Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion to discuss international artists who are also activists, as well as the context when Scottish artists express concerns over political, social and environmental issues. Saturday 24th August, 6.00pm – 7.30pm

US commentators Jason Boxt and Robert Moran, Democrat and Republican Campaign Managers’ Pollsters respectively, discuss American opinion and reaction to the current politics and economic debates taking place in the UK, in A US Perspective on UK/EU issues, with particular focus on Europe, Scotland and defence and will offer an insight into issues shaping American domestic and foreign policy that will have an impact on the UK and Scotland. Sunday 25th August, 11.30am – 1.00pm

One much-discussed topic in relation to the independence referendum is that of immigration. What is the future of immigration in Scotland? asks what kind of immigration the country might need in the future, and will explore the likely need for different approaches to immigration in the UK and Scotland, what future policies on asylum, human rights and border controls might entail, as well as Scotland’s relationship with the EU and its member states. Chaired by John Wilkes, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, who is joined by Strathclyde University’s Professor Robert Wright, Professor Alison Phipps of the University of Glasgow, PhD student Craig Douglas, who is studying at Strathclyde, and lawyer and human rights campaigner Aamer Anwar. Sunday 25th August, 12.30pm – 2.00pm

David Nasaw, American historian and biographer of Scottish-born entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie will discuss his recent work on the Kennedy dynasty, and introduce and discuss his latest biography, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P Kennedy. Introduced by Martyn Evans, chief executive of the Carnegie UK Trust. Sunday 25th August, 2.00pm – 3.30pm

Scotland’s Defence Capability will explore the implications of independence on Scotland’s defence industry, as well as looking at whether UK defence contracts could be awarded to Scotland post-independence. The debate will also cover the future of the Clyde shipyards, the defence forces required by an independent Scotland as well as discussing if an independent, nuclear-free Scotland would be allowed to remain a part of NATO. Chaired by Principal of the University of St Andrews Louise Richardson, who is joined by Angus Robertson MP, the SNP’s Westminster spokesman on defence and foreign affairs, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and form Secretary of State for Scotland Jim Murphy MP, and Professor Sir Hew Strachan, advisor to the Ministry of Defence, former director of the Scottish Centre for War Studies and fellow of All Souls College Oxford. Sunday 25th August, 3.00pm – 4.30pm

1945 saw the introduction of the welfare state. Ken Loach’s film Spirit of ’45 aims to illuminate and celebrate the period of unprecedented community spirit in the UK – but according to a recent survey, support for the government’s main role in providing welfare support and for increased benefits has declined, with the population more sceptical now than during the last recession about benefit recipients. This event will debate whether Loach’s film and the spirit of the welfare state could be rediscovered in the face on increasing austerity and welfare reforms as the panel debate The Future of the Welfare State in Scotland. Chaired by Professor Emeritus Adrian Sinfield, of Edinburgh University’s School of Social and Political Science, with panellists including Bill Scott, Manager of Inclusion Scotland and George Lamb, Co-ordinator Disability History Scotland. Sunday 25th August, 4.30pm – 7.00pm

The role that social media is playing in the independence referendum, and 21st century Scottish politics is clear for all to see. On a global scale, President Barack Obama’s campaign is without doubt one of the most successful marketing campaigns in history, whilst social media has emerged as a vital tool in the Arab Spring. This session, The Power of Social Media, will examine whether social media has the power to increase a small independent nation’s influence on world affairs, or whether messages would be lost amidst the chatter. Chaired by Manchester University’s Professor Rachel Gibson, who is joined by Gregor Poynton, of Blue State Digital – the firm that drove Obama’s social media campaign – and journalists, commentators and tweeters Kate Higgins and Michael White. Sunday 25th August, 5.30pm – 7.00pm

The Festival of Politics takes place from August 23-25 at The Scottish Parliament.

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