This year’s Festival of Politics has attracted the biggest number of visitors ever. More than 4,200 people attended the 38 events at the five-day-long festival which ended on Saturday – a 23 per cent increase on last year’s number of attendees.
Highlights included discussions with singer Annie Lennox, writer Germaine Greer and political heavyweights Clare Short, David Owen and Dennis Canavan.
The festival, now in its fifth year, closed today with a tribute to the life and work of Robbie Burns. Events included Burns-related children’s storytelling theatre and political debate on how the Bard’s work gave the Scottish Enlightenment its radical edge.
Other highlights included a talk by former MP David Owen – one of Labour’s breakaway ‘Gang of Four’ who founded the SDP – on his colourful life in politics.
Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson MSP chatted to him about his role in bringing independence to Zimbabwe and what it was like being one of the UK’s youngest-ever foreign secretaries, under James Callaghan.
During the hour-long chat he praised Scotland on its ten years of devolution. He said: “I think Scotland has done very well. The Scottish Parliament has shown us what we wanted to see regarding devolution, it’s a measure of qualified independence and I think that’s necessary.”
A Scottish Parliament spokeswoman said: “The Festival of Politics has always tried to provide a platform for raising and discussing issues facing Scotland and the world.
"Annie Lennox’s idea of taking on some sort of ambassadorial role for Scotland has stimulated thinking immediately with two MSPs having already tabled motions.
"The Presiding Officer has written to Annie to reiterate his commitment to helping take forward her idea in any way that is appropriate to his role of Presiding Officer.”
Other events on the closing day included "Scottish Parliament: A Voice for Working People” which looked at how trade unions can still influence policy makers in a devolved Scotland. There was also a discussion on whether the development of Scotland’s national parks had delivered better management to these areas of outstanding natural beauty.
Another session saw the Cross Party Group on International Development discuss the importance of aid being given to the developing world in a time of global recession and another ask what roles voluntary and community organisations have in helping create a more 'civil economy’.
Three events, all relating to Robbie Burns, have been specially designed for children and include workshops which cover topics including language, equality and patriotism. Folk singer Wendy Weatherby and storyteller Andy Cannon will also create a unique theatrical experience for youngsters when they perform at "Oor Rabbie".
Director of the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Dr Donald Smith, asks if Burns’ work still matters in modern Scotland in "Burns’s Radical Voice – Politics and Religion in the Age of Enlightenment". And a performance of Lara Jane Bunting’s play "Love But Her" will close the five-day festival. It tells the story of Burns’ wife Jean Armour and her turbulent life with the Bard.
This year’s Festival of Politics was delivered in formal partnership with:
Carnegie UK Trust and the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust
The Law Society of Scotland
EAE Leaflet Marketing Specialists
The Lighthouse, Scotland’s Centre for Architecture, Design and the City