Explore the building blocks of democracy at the Festival of Politics


The building blocks of democracy will be the focus of this year’s Festival of Politics as political statesmen, big thinkers, Borgen and even LEGO® comes together at Holyrood this August.

From dissecting the concept of democracy to getting the inside track from elder statesmen such as the Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable and Chris Mullin, the Festival will look at all aspects of politics, both national and international.  


Taking place from Thursday 18 to Saturday 20 August, this year’s Festival, will for the first time also host a family day where kids both young and old can let their imaginations run free helping build a giant vertical map of Scotland made entirely from LEGO®. 


Announcing the 2016 programme, the Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP said:


“This year’s Festival programme is bursting with big and thoughtful sessions covering everything from the art of political speech writing and the current campaign for the White House to the implications of artificial intelligence. 


“For the first time we also have a series of family events too so there really is something for everyone at this year’s Festival of Politics.  No other festival has Vince Cable, Borgen and Lego all under one roof!”


Events include:




The Future of Scottish Sport 

17:00 - 18:30, Debating Chamber, £8.00/£6.00 


After the high of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014 and the promises to raise the bar and embed sport in the lives of all Scottish people, are we on track to achieve gold in the effort and outcome race? Join panellists Louise Martin, former President of the Commonwealth Games Federation; Eve Muirhead, 2014 Olympic medallist and 2013 World Champion curler; and Jason White, former Scotland rugby captain and British and Irish Lion. Chaired by Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP.


Borgen v the Rest of the World 

19:30 - 20:30, Members’ Room, £6.00/£4.00 


Who knew Danish coalition politics could be so compelling? Borgen is the ultimate political TV drama with millions of fans worldwide including Hillary Clinton and former French Presidents. Join Borgen producer Camilla Hammerich and Borgen writer Jeppe Gjervig Gram to discover the secrets of this Danish phenomenon. 


Borgen (15) 

21:00 - 22:00, Members’ Room 


There will be a free screening of the first episode of Borgen introduced by series producer Camilla Hammerich. All spaces must be booked in advance due to limited availability.




Baroness Susan Greenfield - the 21st century mind: problems and possibilities 

12:00 - 13:00, Debating Chamber, £8.00/£6.00 


Baroness Susan Greenfield CBE is an internationally recognized research scientist, author and broadcaster whose latest book Mind Change explores how digital technologies leave their mark on our brains. This lecture will discuss both the transformative effects of new technologies upon the human brain, our minds and in particular the unprecedented changes that could occur in the young developing brain. Baroness Greenfield will also discuss what she calls - “one of the biggest problems of our time” - Alzheimer’s disease - and the research that may one day lead to detection and a therapy that will stop degeneration in the future. Chaired by Deputy Presiding Officer Christine Grahame MSP. 


Chris Mullin in Conversation 

14:30 - 16:00, Debating Chamber, £8.00/£6.00 

Author, journalist and former Labour minister Chris Mullin discusses his new book, a memoir entitled Hinterland. He is the author of three widely acclaimed volumes of diaries and the novel A Very British Coup, the television version of which won several BAFTAs and an Emmy. His investigation into the Birmingham pub bombings has been described by the Independent on Sunday as - ‘one of the greatest feats ever achieved by an investigative reporter’. Chaired by Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP. 


Barton Swaim - the political speechwriter 

16:30 - 18:00, £6.00/£4.00 


From the barnstorming to the profound, the political speech has the power to inspire or deflate. Should the speechwriter convey feeling over content and what happens if the politician is a serial language abuser who mangles all aspirational or poetic intent? Join Chair Michael Russell MSP and former speechwriter Barton Swaim, author of The Speechwriter: A Brief Education in Politics, to dissect this specific art. 




Who Will Win America? 

12:00 - 13:30, Debating Chamber, £8.00/£6.00 

As the US election heats up to sizzling point and the nominees for both Democratic and Republican parties having been decided by mid-August, it is time to analyse the respective campaigns and place all bets on the likely outcome of the next President of the United States of America. Helping us do that will be Chair, Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP and panellists Jason Boxt, US pollster and communications and political strategist; Robert Moran, US pollster and political strategist; Barton Swaim, author and former speechwriter to a Republican Senator; and Glenn Thrush, Chief Political Correspondent for Politico and former Senior White House Correspondent.


Is Polling Good for Democracy? 

16:15 - 17:45, £6.00/£4.00 


Is polling opinion research a sensationalist tool or a quantifiable science? Join our panel of UK and US pollsters and experts who will reveal the secret skills and tools of the trade in analysing the power of the 21st century political campaign. Chair Mandy Rhodes, Editor, Holyrood Magazine; Jason Boxt, US pollster and communications and political strategist; Robert Moran, US pollster and political strategist; Professor Ailsa Henderson, Professor of Political Science, University of Edinburgh; and Mark Diffley, Research Director, Ipsos MORI.


Building our LEGO® and Minecraft future 

16:30 - 18:00, £6.00/£4.00 


LEGO® and Minecraft are both phenomenally popular outlets for both children’s and adults’ imaginations. So what is the appeal of these most simplistic of games and how can we apply Minecraft and LEGO® skills to educate and encourage a younger generation to design the spaces of the future? Join Chair, Jackie Cassidy, Children in Scotland educationalist and panellists Warren Elsmore, professional LEGO® builder and author of Brick History: Amazing Historical Scenes to Build from LEGO®; Stephen Reid, 3D modeler; and Hanneke Scott van-Wel, community engagement architect and Director of Stone Opera. 


A Life in Politics - Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable 

17:00 – 18:30, Debating Chamber, £8.00/£6.00

The Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable served as an MP from 1997 until 2015 having served as Deputy Leader and Acting Leader (2007) of the Liberal Democrats and as Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills in the coalition government. He is credited by some as predicting the global financial crisis of 2007-10 and his book After the Storm: The World Economy and Britain’s Economic Future, provides a unique insight on the post-crash global economy. Join him in conversation with Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh MSP as he discusses life in politics. 


Programme availability and tickets


Tickets will go on sale online via www.festivalofpolitics.scot at 10.00am am on Wednesday 15 June 

A limited number of tickets are available via the Scottish Parliament in person and via telephone on 0131 348 5200. 

Full details of the festival programme are available from www.festivalofpolitics.scot

Hard copies of the programme are available from most Waterstones and Blackwells bookstores.


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