Mike Vickers' Blog

August 25, 2013

Festival of Politics – 24 August 13

Filed under: Edinburgh Festival, Politics, Scotland, Scottish Independence — derryvickers @ 10:10 pm

The Festival of Politics (FoP) is an event held annually and timed to coincide with the Edinburgh International Festival.  It is held in the Holyrood  Parliament Building.  Till now the FoP has been a very broad based enterprise with a wide range of panellists but this year there were less discussions and more concentration on the great and the good.  Nevertheless it was enjoyable and here are my notes on the four discussions I went to.

The Future of Europe and Small Nations. (Charlie Jeffery, David Edwards, Fabian Zuleeg, Tim Phillips (US), Peter Jones (Chair))

  • Small nations need shelter
  • Scotland still in favour of Europe 60% rather than England <50%
  • Almost certain that an independent Scotland would be a member of the EU
  • All European countries on the world stage are small and getting smaller
  • Scotland will get on well in Europe provided personnel happy to work twice as hard – Staff need to start early in their  careers
  • Top jobs not necessarily to the big boys
  • As changes in EU rules need be signed by all, small countries may use their veto
  • Centre of gravity of EU moving east German / Polish border – Germany French axis dead
  • English renegotiation – other than a few good sounding items, the other countries will say get lost
  • Power comes from what you attract not what you project: Scotland well placed to attract : exploit assets
  • Small states need to make alliances – middle Europe could be good – rather than the Nordics
  • It’s not potential power, its actual power that counts
  • The World is going distributed
  • Costa Rica good example on world stage

Culture and Broadcasting (James Boyle, David Elstein, Ruth Wishart, Brian Wilson, Magnus Linklater (chair))

  • Culture highly stratified in Scotland – 450,000 tickets sold for High Culture/Arts but taken up at 2% 3% high end of market – excludes TV and radio
  • Illiteracy in Scotland is high and worse in big cities
  • Introduce culture and thereby literacy through pre-school education
  • JD critical of recent review on broadcasting lead by  – spending £75m on a Scottish digital channel focusing on Scottish news and events misuse of scarce money – should be spent on developing talent and R&D
  • DE – BBC should restructure itself before the Referendum and get it out of the Independence debate
  • RW considers there needs to be a channel to get new talent on to the air waves
  • All agreed that BBC Scotland is currently a disaster – BBC would be responsive and quickly to public demand
  • I tackled JB after wards as to why has BBC Scotland so degenerated – his response that eth money had been diverted elsewhere at the Scottish end
  • Broadcasting the best way of distributing culture
  • All agreed that culture needs to be more distributed – BBC Alba got high praise – agreed that more distribution along these lines highly desirable

Identity and Community – the Happy Lands

  • Just watched the Happy Lands film – didn’t wait for the discussion which looked to be no more than ½ hour
  • The film a reconstructed documentary of miners’ strike in 1926 (at Glencraig?) – Things have changed for the better.  How different the documentary from the press reports at the time


  • Unfortunate to say the least the battle between Thatcher and Scargill killed off mining in this country.  Real Communities – Recently the Bathgate Brass Band performed at Linlithgow Arts Guild – simply great

The Power of Social Media (Rachel Gibson, Michael White, Kate Higgins, Gregor Poynton, David Torrance (Chair))

  • RG opened with a few slides – purpose: enhance citizens, lower information costs, make political actions, open new channel
  • Application for Presidential Elections from 2004 to Obama 2008 onto Obama 2012 – but looks to no longer novel – now just one of the politician’s armoury – 2008 the high point.
  • US politics money driven
  • SNP use in 2011, Labour on the back foot, BeppoGrillo Italian elections.
  • Do not forget that Twitter and Facebook are commercial ventures
  • MW – astonishing new technology but still require the doorstep call for the personal contact
  • Will social media displace the politician – no
  • Successful politicians all showmen; but increasingly need to be careful about what they do
  • No comments on digital newspapers eg Huffington Post and Newsnet Scotland

In discussion with MW and RG afterwards RG asked if Twitter is not passed it – we discussed whether the Egyptian revolution in Tahrir Square was driven forward with tweeting and I think we agreed it was;  newspapers will continue – still a need for more analysis  – newspapers selling news packages – Daily Mail, FT, Guardian – I mention I had read the Guardian Weekly for years.

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