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Festival of Politics

Lawrie Scott-McFarlane

The Scottish Parliament’s annual Festival of Politics is taking place this month. It will run for four days starting on Wednesday 10 October. A number of key themes will be covered during this year’s programme.


A panel of experts will discuss the potential best and worst case outcomes during a session on Wednesday, which will be chaired by Rachel Sylvester of The Times. There will also be a discussion on “Trade Wars” chaired by Christine Grahame and attended by a panel of experts, including the BBC’s Economy Editor, Douglas Fraser. On Thursday, there will be a debate on living outside the EU during a session chaired by Ann Packard, who is an Honorary Fellow at RIAS, as well as the author Lesley Riddoch. Finally, on Saturday, there will be a session from the Scottish Youth Parliament on the impact that Brexit could have on young people.


A range of events will tackle the issue of gender equality. There will be parliamentary exhibition running across the week on the contributions of pioneering political women. There will also be a screening of Red Skirts on Clydeside on Thursday, which covers the role of women in the 1915 Glasgow rent strike, as well as a broader discussion on the Red Clydeside era 100 years on. Meanwhile, a panel of activists and authors will discuss the next steps for #MeToo. On Saturday, Ken Macintosh will interview the feminist academic, Prof Mary Beard. There will also be sessions on body image, gender equality, and the Nasty Women essay collection.

Poverty & Intergenerational Fairness

Poverty, inequality and housing are key themes this year, with a particular emphasis on framing these issues in an intergenerational context. Darren McGarvey (aka Loki) will discuss social mobility during a session chaired by Kenny Farquharson of The Times before being interviewed by Ken Macintosh on Friday. Meanwhile, the Scottish Youth Parliament hosts a session entitled “Did Baby Boomers Steal My Future?”. On Saturday, there will be sessions on youth homelessness and housing policy more generally, including with Dawn Foster of The Guardian and Shelter’s Adam Lang. Christine Grahame will also chair a session on foodbanks, while the Scottish Youth Parliament discusses the “Youthquake” phenomenon which has occurred over the past few years as young people become more engaged in politics.

Democracy & Technology

There will be a broad range of events on the potential threats to democracy in the US and UK, particularly following the rise of social media and ‘fake news’. A panel of experts will discuss people, parliaments and possibilities on Thursday and there will also be a session on the likelihood of second presidential term for Donald Trump. On Saturday, Anas Sarwar and Ben Macpherson will attend a session politics and social media while a panel of experts will discuss the impact of smartphones on politics and communications. Meanwhile, Jackie Baillie will chair a session from Scotland’s Futures Forum on automation in the workplace. There will also be a panel on conspiracy theories and ‘fake news’.

Land Reform

The Festival of Politics will host a couple of sessions on land reform, which has been a common theme throughout the history of devolution. The historian Tom Devine will discuss his new book on the Scottish clearances on Friday as part of a session chaired by Ken Macintosh. Later that evening, Linda Fabiani will host a discussion on the patterns of land ownership in contemporary Scotland with a panel of experts including Andy Wightman and David Johnstone, the Chair of Scottish Land & Estates.

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