Scottish Parliament’s Festival of Politics programme unveiled


The Scottish Parliament will welcome a range of leading public figures such as Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, journalist and broadcaster Andrew Marr, and TV’s Dr Rangan Chaterjee, as part of this year’s Festival of Politics.

Taking place from Thursday 10th to Saturday 12th October, this year’s programme looks back at past events, and thinks ahead to future debates on the issues that shape our political and cultural landscape. With sessions featuring Brexit, next year’s US presidential election, Islamophobia and the 20th anniversary of devolution.

The Festival offers people in Scotland the chance to engage and contribute directly alongside MSPs, journalists, academics and commentators on many of the biggest issues we face.

Speaking as the Festival programme was launched, the Presiding Officer the Rt Hon Ken Macintosh MSP said:

“The Festival of Politics is an opportunity for the Scottish Parliament to open its doors to the general public in a unique way. It provides a space for everyone to consider and debate issues that matter to them in the heart of Scotland’s democracy.

“This year’s festival comes at a critical time. A range of anniversaries – not least the Scottish Parliament celebrating our 20th birthday – give us cause to reflect on the progress, or otherwise, made.

“However, there is also much to debate, with the coming months and years holding major decisions which have the power to fundamentally alter the political landscape, as well as everyday lives.

“In this context, we are proud to present an interesting and varied programme of events, exhibitions and music which make up 2019’s Festival of Politics. Whether your interest is science, women’s or racial equality, mental health or US politics, we have an event for you.”

This year’s festival will also feature two captivating exhibitions, and see the return of our popular café bar, with free musical entertainment. The exhibitions will show a selection of portraits from the Royal Society of Edinburgh celebrating some of Scotland’s finest female scientists, and portraits reflecting on the process of ageing on the mind and body as captured by Fionna Carlisle.



Events include:

Thursday 10th October

 In Conversation with Dr Rangan Chatterjee
18.00 - 19.30 £6.00/£4.00
Dr Rangan Chatterjee is best known for his Doctor in the House television show and as the resident doctor on BBC One Breakfast Show. Yet the practicing GP is also on a mission to inspire people to transform their health and happiness through making small, sustainable changes to their lifestyles. On World Mental Health Day, join Dr Chatterjee in conversation with Deputy Presiding Officer Linda Fabiani MSP to discuss solutions to stress on how we
can all lead calmer, happier, healthier lives as outlined in Dr Chatterjee’s book, The Stress Solution and his #1 podcast, Feel Better, Live More.


Friday 11th October

Citizens’ Assemblies
13.30 - 15.00 £6.00/£4.00
Following the success of citizens’ assemblies in Ireland and around the world, Scotland plans to follow suit with a citizen’s assembly held in 2020, bringing together the public and experts to shape recommendations on Scotland’s future. How do they work and why are they suddenly so popular with governments and movements? Join chair Shelagh Wright, Compass, and panellists including Dr Oliver Escobar, University of Edinburgh; Jamie Kelsey-Fry, Extinction Rebellion; and Dr Jane Suiter, Dublin City University, to debate the pros and cons.


In Conversation with Baroness Helena Kennedy QC
15.00 - 16.30 £8.00/£6.00
Barrister, author and Member of the House of Lords, Baroness Helena Kennedy QC is one of the UK’s most distinguished lawyers with over 40 years’ experience. She has championed law reform for women,
especially in relation to sexual and domestic violence, and her campaigning has brought about significant change on equal opportunities with the legal profession. Join Baroness Kennedy discussing Eve Was Shamed: How British Justice Is Failing Women, her vital exposé demonstrating legal discrimination against women: from the lack of female judges to the scandal of female prisons and the double discrimination facing BAME women, this event will enrage and inspire in equal measure.


Brexit: Where now?
15.30 - 17.00 £6.00/£4.00
Join our panel of Brexit experts who have the unenviable task of analysing the latest challenges, soundbites and back-stop negotiations to tell us where the UK and Scotland go next on the Brexit road-map. Join panellists including Professor Anand Menon, Director of the UK in a Changing Europe Initiative; Alex Massie, The Spectator; Dr Kirsty Hughes, Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations; and Tim Martin, chairman Wetherspoons to bring clarity to Brexit.


Can Finland Solve Homelessness?
17.15 - 18.45 £6.00/£4.00Finland is the only country in the EU where homelessness is falling. Now its radical approach is about to be piloted in parts of the UK. Join chair the Presiding Officer and panellists Sanna Vesikansa, Deputy Mayor of Helsinki; Ewan Aitken, Cyrenians; Kate Farrell, Liverpool City Region; and Mark Johnson, former rough sleeper and User Voice founder, to discuss whether Finland’s solution will work in the UK and how we address this modern plight..


America: The Presidential Contenders
17.30 - 19.00 £6.00/£4.00
Ahead of next year’s primaries, the race is on to see who will win the American Presidential election of 2020. Will President Trump steam roller any noises of Republican discontent and do the Democrats have strong enough candidates to take on the current White House incumbent? Join chair Kenny Farquharson, The Times and panellists, Dr Clodagh Harrington, De Montfort University; Professor Robert Singh, Professor of Politics, Birkbeck University of London Jason Boxt, US pollster; and Dr Mark McLay, University of Glasgow, for a ringside seat.


The Power of Speech
19.15 - 20.45 £6.00/£4.00
A rousing political speech can change lives. From Martin Luther King to Greta
Thunberg’s recent Davos speech, the greatest speeches echo through history. Join chair Michael Blackley, SPJA Secretary and panellists David Clegg, The Daily Record; Kezia Dugdale, John Smith Centre for Public Service; Dr Julia Peetz, University of Surrey; and Dr Andrew Crines, University of Liverpool, to dissect the components of a great political speech and whether orators are born or made.

Saturday 12th October 

She's Running! How Women Can Stand and Succeed
13.30 - 15.00 £6.00/£4.00
In partnership with the John Smith Centre for Public Service The representation of women in British politics has improved in recent decades yet still fails to reflect a 50:50 balance at all levels of government. Join chair Andrew Marr, BBC and panellists Ruth Davidson MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Party; Dr Meryl Kenny, University of Edinburgh; Danielle Rowley MP; and Talat Yaqoob, Equate Scotland to assess the political barriers, share personal experiences and discuss how inequalities can be overcome on individual and societal levels to address the balance.


Stonewall at 50
16.00 - 17.30 £6.00/£4.00
New York’s Stonewall riot 50 years ago was a pivotal moment in the history of LGBTQIA community, but what of Scotland’s evolution? From Section 28 to being saluted as “the gayest parliament in the world” it’s been a dramatic journey. Join chair Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP and panellists Sophie Bridger, Stonewall; Hazel Marzetti, LGBT Youth Scotland; Jo Clifford, writer/performer; and James Morton, Scottish Trans Alliance to discuss what changed and what still needs to change?


Programme availability and tickets

• Tickets will go on sale online via from Wednesday 4 September.
• A limited number of tickets are available via the Scottish Parliament in person and via telephone on 0131 348 5200.
• Find full details of the festival programme on the Festival of Politics website.
• Hard copies of the programme are available from most Waterstones and Blackwells bookstores.



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