Big issues at heart of the referendum to be debated at the Festival of Politics


Defence issues facing Scotland and the United Kingdom, including the future of the Trident programme at Faslane, is just one of three sessions taking place today on the opening day of the Scottish Parliament's Festival of Politics.

Now in its 10th year, the three-day festival focuses on the implications of the ‘big issues’ in the Scottish independence referendum debate. 

Presiding Officer, the Rt Hon Tricia Marwick MSP, said:

“The Festival of Politics has always placed people at the centre of politics. With just a month to go until the referendum, we are offering balanced, informative and intelligent sessions exploring all the key issues. It is a place where people can come and explore what matters to them as they consider how to cast their vote on 18 September, safe in the knowledge it is a politician free zone.”

Almost 70 experts from the worlds of oil, immigration, law, journalism, the third sector, think tanks and academia will provide informed opinion and balanced debate during the three-day festival. Other events taking place today include discussions about the future of vital public services such as policing, health, social services and education, as well as food security and Scotland’s ability to feed itself.  

The Scottish Parliament’s Garden Lobby is transformed once again into the Festival Café Bar.  Featuring a heady mix of music, comedy, poetry and art, visitors on Friday will be entertained by That Swing Sensation, playing a variety of jazz, swing, jive, big band dance classics and rock ‘n’ roll from the 1930s onwards.  Visitors can also browse a display of political cartoons by the Edinburgh Evening News’ Frank Boyle.

Today’s events

Balancing the books – 16:30-18:00

What is the future of public services in Scotland and can the public sector meet the ever increasing demands that are placed upon it? Following the Referendum, what is the future of our vital services: policing, health, social services and education?

Chair: Professor Charlie Jeffrey – University of Edinburgh.

Participants: Bill Jamieson – Journalist and Commentator; Paul Johnson – University College London; Robin McAlpine – Common Weal.

Defence – 16:30-18:00

What are the key defence issues facing Scotland and the UK including the future of trident at Faslane? Discussions will look at the right level of defence capability, the right mix of defence forces and international co-operation including NATO membership.

Chair: Peter Felstead – Editor, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly.

Participants: Professor Sir Hew Strachan – University of Oxford, Professor Malcolm Chalmers – Royal United Services Institute, Dr Colin Fleming – University of Edinburgh, Dr Phillips O’Brien – University of Glasgow.

Food security – 16:30-18:00

Can Scotland feed itself in the future? Can we resolve the health and wealth paradox and what is the role of the food industry? What is the proportion of crop-based food that we could expect to sustainably produce in Scotland? What is the role of sustainable plant protein in a healthy diet?

Chair: Dr Alan Rowe, Food Industry Specialist, Rowett Institute, University of Aberdeen.

Participants: Scott Walker – CEO, National Farmers Union of Scotland; Professor Liz Baggs – University of Aberdeen; Dr Alexandra Johnstone – University of Aberdeen; Dr Flora Douglas – University of Aberdeen.

That Swing Sensation – 18:00- 20:00

Following the three Festival of Politics sessions, visitors can join the opening night, as one of Scotland’s most popular dance bands, That Swing Sensation, will play a variety of jazz, swing, jive, big band dance classics and rock ‘n’ roll from the 1930s onwards.


The Festival of Politics takes place at the Scottish Parliament from Friday 15th August to Sunday 17th August. 

Other events taking place during the Festival of Politics include sessions on the on going debate on an independent Scotland’s membership of the EU, a session on the future currency options as well as a showcase performance of Joe Corrie’s In Time o’ Strife about a Fife mining community during the General Strike of 1926 which explores the brutal lives of a family staring hunger and defeat in the face.

Tickets can be purchased online at

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