Scotland’s place in the world debated at this year’s Festival of Politics


This year’s Festival of Politics will examine ‘Scotland’s Place in the World’.  The three day festival, which takes place in the unique setting of the Scottish Parliament, will explore what has shaped Scotland’s past and debate the big issues that will shape its future.


With sessions on defence, immigration, the power of small nations and Scotland’s identity, this year’s event brings together the best commentators and academics to debate the issues that define the nation.

In a first for the Festival of Politics, this year will also include a Festival Café.  This vibrant new space will allow festival-goers and participants to come together to continue the debate in an informal and relaxed way.

Speaking ahead of the event, Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick MSP, said:

“This is one of the most interesting times in our history, a time when questions about who we are as a nation and what the future holds makes daily headlines.  This year’s Festival of Politics will explore many of these questions through lively debate and discussion in the unique setting of the Parliament building.

“The Festival of Politics is where politics and people come together and I am delighted that once again the Scottish Parliament is supporting this exciting and intelligent addition to Edinburgh’s festivals’ season.”

Events include:

The Power of Cultural Diplomacy and of Small Nations in Overcoming Conflict

Friday 23 August, 16:30-18:00. £5.00/£3.50

This event will explore the power of cultural diplomacy in overcoming cultural conflict. Join chair Mark Muller QC, barrister and international mediator, Chair of the Bar Human Rights Committee, as he discusses the issues and explores the key role that small nations such as Scotland can play in world cultural diplomacy with panellists Manny Ansar, founder of the Festival in Exile; William Burdett-Coutts, Artistic Director Assembly Edinburgh; and US Ambassador Cynthia P Schneider, non-resident senior fellow in the Project on US Relations with the Islamic World (external website) at Brookings.

In association with Beyond Borders

The Future of Europe and Small Nations
Saturday 24 August, 11:30-13:00. £5.00/£3.50

With the EU soon to increase in size to 28 Member States, what ability does the EU have to further absorb new members?  Might a widening of membership come at the expense of deeper integration?  What are the potential consequences for smaller Member States?  Chair Peter Jones and panellists Professor Charlie Jeffery of the University of Edinburgh, Sir David Edward, a former judge in the European Court of Justice, Fabian Zuleeg, Chief Economist at the European Policy Centre in Brusselsand Tim Phillips, a member of the Advisory Committee for the Club de Madrid discuss the issues.

Independence and Economic Issues
Saturday 24 August, 13:00-14:30. £5.00/£3.50

There is little doubt that economics will play a crucial part in determining the
views of people voting in the referendum. This session will open with a presentation from Dr Angus Armstrong of the National Institute of Economic and Social Research and Centre for Macroeconomics. Chair Jeremy Peat OBE FRSE, economist and Director of the David Hume Institute, will be joined by panellists Professor David Bell, University of Stirling; Bill Jamieson, Executive Editor of The Scotsman; Jo Armstrong of the Centre for Public Policy for Regions and Honorary Professor at Glasgow University Business School; and Dr Brian Quinn, Honorary Professor of Economics at the University of Glasgow.

Culture and Broadcasting
Saturday 24 August, 14:00-16:00. FREE

In partnership with the Royal Society of Edinburgh and the British Academy and forming part of the series Enlightening the Constitutional Debate, this event will focus on the impact of constitutional change on the culture of Scotland. This event will be chaired by Magnus Linklater CBE, former Editor of The Scotsman and also of the Scottish edition of The Times, and will include contributions from Professor Seona Reid, Director of the Glasgow School of Art and former Director of the Scottish Arts Council; James Boyle, Chairman of the National Library of Scotland, Chairman of the British Council in Scotland and formerly Director of BBC Scotland and Radio 4; Ruth Wishart, journalist and commentator; and Dr David Elstein, Chair of open Democracy and the Broadcasting Policy Group.

Public Attitudes to our Constitutional Future
Saturday 24 August, 15:30-17:00. £5.00/£3.50

This session will focus on people’s attitudes towards independence both in Scotland and the rest of the UK. The session will be led off by a presentation from Professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde, who currently holds an Economic and Social Research Council fellowship specifically to study and report on public opinion towards Scotland’s constitutional future. The session will be chaired by Iain Macwhirter, journalist and commentator, and the panel will comprise Mandy Rhodes, Editor, Holyrood Magazine; David Walker, writer, journalist and commentator; Professor Richard Wyn Jones, Director of the Wales Governance Centre, Cardiff University; and Dr Nicola McEwen, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Edinburgh University.

Identity and Community – The Happy Lands
Saturday 24 August 17:00 – 19:30. £5.00/£3.50

The Happy Lands is a unique film focussing on Fife’s mining communities around the time of the great strike in 1926. It maps the events that many say laid the foundation of Scotland’s identification with socialism and internationalism and asks the questions that many Scots feel aren’t being asked within the current Yes/No campaign. Join us for a screening of this groundbreaking film, followed by a discussion and debate that will explore notions of identity and community. Does legacy inform our identity and shape our communities, and how important are identity and community as we head towards the referendum? Chair the Rt Hon Henry McLeish, former First Minister and MP and MSP for Central Fife, will explore the issues with panellists director Robert Rae; actor George Wallace; Tom Brown, political commentator and author; and Polly Toynbee, journalist and writer for The Guardian.

Politics and Art
Saturday 24 August 18:00 – 19:30. £5.00/£3.50

Join in the discussions about how artists create art in a social and political context, and what happens when art challenges the political status quo. Experts will discuss international instances of when artists are also activists as well as the context when Scotland’s artists express concerns about political, social and environmental issues. Chair Linda Fabiani MSP, who is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, will be joined by a number of experts including artists Matthew Dalziel and Louise Scullion, whose artistic practice seeks to challenge existing attitudes towards nature and raise awareness of ecological issues.

Scottish Youth Theatre – Now’s the Hour
Saturday 24 August 20:00 – 21:00. £5.00/£3.50

Scottish Youth Theatre presents highlights from an energetic theatrical piece devised by a large cast of performers from all over Scotland, first performed
as part of Summer Festival 2013. On 18 September 2014, Scotland will vote
to make one of the biggest decisions in its history. The vote may not be until next year but the hour is now – to seek, to ask, to find. All these young people will be eligible to vote and now is their hour to identify their aspirations, their fears, their questions and their views on a vote that will create this country’s future.

Devised by the Company and directed by Fraser MacLeod.

A US Perspective on UK/EU Issues
Sunday 25 August 11:30-13:00. £5.00/£3.50

Well-respected US commentators Jason Boxt and Robert Moran, respectively Democrat and Republican Campaign Managers’ Pollsters, will discuss US opinion and reaction to the current political and economic debates in the UK, with particular emphasis on Europe, Scotland and defence matters. Jason and Robert will also give an insight into the issues shaping US domestic and foreign policy that will impact on the UK and Scotland.

In association with Blue Parrot Communications

What is the Future of Immigration in Scotland?
Sunday 25 August, 12:30-14:00. £5.00/£3.50

This discussion will explore current immigration policy in the UK and Scotland and examine what kind of immigration Scotland might need in the future. Topics will include the potential need for different approaches to immigration in Scotland and the UK; economic and social issues related to immigration; and what future policies might look like. Join Chair John Wilkes, Chief Executive, of the Scottish Refugee Council, and panellists Professor Robert Wright, University of Strathclyde; Professor Alison Phipps, University of Glasgow; Craig Douglas PHD Student at the University of Strathclyde; and Aamer Anwar, Lawyer and Human Rights Campaigner.

The Kennedys
Sunday 25 August, 14:00-15:30. £5.00/£3.50

David Nasaw, the internationally known historian of the United States, award-winning biographer of Andrew Carnegie, and Distinguished Professor of History at the City University of New York will discuss his recent work on the Kennedy dynasty and introduce and discuss his new biography, The Patriarch: The Remarkable Life and Turbulent Times of Joseph P Kennedy.
Introduced by Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of the Carnegie UK Trust.

Scotland’s Defence Capability
Sunday 25 August, 15:00-16:30. £5.00/£3.50

The referendum is raising many important issues and concerns, not least in the area of defence and this event will seek to answer some of these questions. Chair Professor Louise Richardson, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of St Andrews, discusses the issue with panellists Angus Robertson MP, Scottish Shadow Minister for Defence and Foreign Affairs for the SNP; Professor Sir Hew Strachan, Fellow of All Souls College, University of Oxford, former director of the Scottish Centre for War Studies and adviser to the Ministry of Defence; and the Rt Hon Jim Murphy MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary of State for Scotland.

The Spirit Of ’45 – The Future of the Welfare State In Scotland
Sunday 25 August, 16:30 – 19:00. £5.00/£3.50

1945 marked the beginning of the welfare state. The Ken Loach film Spirit
of ’45 hopes to illuminate and celebrate this period of unprecedented community spirit in the UK, when ‘generosity, mutual support and co-operation were the watch words of the age’ (Ken Loach). However, according to a recent British Social Attitudes Survey, support for government’s main role in providing welfare support and for increased spending on benefits has declined and people are more sceptical now than during the last recession about whether benefit recipients deserve the help they receive. As these attitudes are reported as showing little sign of softening, this session will debate whether the Spirit of ’45 and the spirit of the welfare state may yet be rediscovered today in the face of increasing austerity and wideranging welfare reforms. Join chair Professor Emeritus Adrian Sinfield, School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh, and panellists including Bill Scott, Manager Inclusion Scotland; and George Lamb, Co-ordinator Disability History Scotland.

The Power of Social Media
Sunday 25 August, 17:30-19:00. £5.00/£3.50

Social media is a force to be reckoned with. It has toppled regimes and brought presidents to power. The Obama campaign is probably one of the most successful marketing campaigns in history, while the Arab Spring shows the strength of social media, giving voice to the suppressed outwith the restraint of state control and bringing people together for a shared cause. This session will ask whether social media has the power to increase the influence of small independent nations on world affairs or whether their messages will be lost amidst the chatter. Join panellists Professor Rachel Gibson of the University of Manchester; Gregor Poynton of Blue State Digital, the company that drove the Obama social media campaign; and journalists, commentators and tweeters Kate Higgins and Michael White as they discuss the issues.

Festival of Politics Partners

Our Festival partners are Carnegie UK Trust and Cameron Presentations.

Programme availability and tickets

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Password: holyrood

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