Saturday, 30 September 2017

Gerry Hassan and Michael Keating (Professor of politics Aberdeen) at EIBF 2017


Gerry Hassan and Michael Keating (Professor of politics Aberdeen) - 'THE EVOLUTION OF DEVOLUTION'
They discussed debates on how to build bridges, with many questions over frictionless borders and if this is possible to preserve communities. They felt that there was too much noise and not enough silence or consideration. Hassan criticised the SNP timidity in government, and claimed that there are no leading thinkers who identify with social democracy and its values are not nurtured. I wasn't sure I understood this comment because I read many informed and educated journalists in both the Herald and National newspapers who believe in social democracy.

They asked, how can we nurture non-party spaces? A future Scotland cannot be about certainty, or the conditional politics of independence or unionism. How do we move on from the entrenched divides, and that we require more 'open mindedness'. The voices of middle Scotland have many 'close-minded warriors' who don't want to have a debate between independence or union. There are important questions over what kind of self government is required for our economic and social project? How to find a shared destination and how do we get there?

They said there was an absence of a think tank not made up of political parties, for a new national project. They spoke of the evolution of Scottish devolution and that London’s shadow over the UK (with 40% of the UKs GDP) was similar only to Moscow’s over Russia. Other issues raised included - taxes for a fairer Scotland.; welfare powers; childcare are ways of tackling poverty; and social inclusion. 

The Westminster parliament was an empty vessel and they spoke of the hope for more self-government within an EU framework. Bulgaria has a huge amount of power and socially more equal than Scotland. Is there a contradiction between social growth and equality? Smaller countries are often more socially equal.
The constitutional questions have several levels – the nature of the state and federalism and devolution as positive forces.
The Smith commission was a political compromise. Political society asks the right questions – but the parties don’t listen - they only fight and not hearing the bigger issues. There has not been enough post mortem since Indy Ref, too much silence.

Then there was the 'British nationalism' and the talk of borderlands, such as by Rory Stewart. – perhaps we only disagree on the framework? Borders are both entrances and exit and there is the innovation of open borders and frictionless borders. They wondered about the peace process in Northern Ireland and the border there. National is both good and bad.  However Brexit has thrown all of this out of the water.

The hope to address what kind of society are we going to look like? There was far too much short termism and they felt that politics was too emotional. Politicians not offering more self government and in fact it is far from certain what they are offering? How is independence formulated are and not what people want – the question are more about the kind of self government. They felt that many have not understood what Independence means or the degree of sovereignty.
Then there is the decline in unionist Scotland – society and power changing with catalysts for further change. Political parties in pockets of money. The economy is unbalanced and the economic model is not working and the banks have not been reformed. The redistribution of money is only slightly more under Labour, Corbyn offers managed capitalism with fixed exchange rate. 

They argued for opening up politics and not having professional politicians and for Scotland cultural change and a second revolution. Civic Scotland is engaged in this debate. There was no discussion over the lack of any Scottish media. Is Scotland going to stay in Europe? The SNP have to change with the times and with the rate of change. What is the differences between Devo Max and independence – the difference is miniscule.

There was no discussion over the lack of any Scottish media. Is Scotland going to stay in Europe. Perhaps they might have drawn more broad conclusions and aims.


Friday, 29 September 2017

'Visions for the future Scotland' talk EIBF 2017


Karine Polwart
This was a diverse, imaginative and inspired talk.
 - with singer songwriter Karine Polwart, Thomas McEachan (Youth Parliament0, Chris Van Der Kuyh (Dundee Games industry) The theme was Voltaire's quote during the Enlightenment - “We look to Scotland” – they asked, does Scotland still have this clout today and spoke of civic spaces for people to meet.

McEachan spoke of a greater sense of civic responsibility towards and by younger people, who were volunteering more. Start a community group, the money is there.  He spoke of Scotland’s future forum the technical influences on society. He felt that Quantitative GDP numbers are not so important. He said there was so much soul destroying work many young people are enduring today – of what we value about people – we care about respect, compassion, warmth …

The Enlightenment economist Adam Smith did not only write of economics, he also wrote, The 'Theory of moral Statements of Human Empathy’. He also campaigned against slavery.  

Karine gave us a few stories. The drinking dens of Edina where ideas got fermented and exchanged. The star poet Robert Fergusson, was invited to elite circles. He was friends with psychiatrist Andrew Duncan, who was devoted to the Royal Edinburgh hospital. Sadly he died young. After the death of Fergusson he used his influence to found a mental health institute. She spoke of the transformative effect of open spaces to meet in real life people not always like ourselves.

Chris Van Der Kuyh (Dundee Games industry) said we were loosing tools – is technology making things too easy? He has worked on Minecraft Game for 7 years. The games industry requires ability to think in a different way – for entrepreneurship and not accepting the status quo and for creating the impossible. Walter Scott shone a light on Scotland. 

They discussed the importance of a ‘Collaborative culture.’
 They expressed important routes to change -
The future is not about political voices – rather it will be team based. Politics goes in circles and does not get the big ideas. We must decide on the values for Scotland; mentor young people; share access and international collaboration.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

'Framing the Arts' with Alan Riach Edinburgh book festival (EIBF 2017)

Sandy Moffat, Alan Riach, John Purser
'Framing The Arts' - Three elder statesmen of the Arts in Scotland – with Professor Alan Riach, Painter Sandy Moffat, Musician and composer John Purser, gave a talk at Edinburgh international Book festival 2017.
"Arts at the heart of life in Scotland and the cultural history of literature, painting, and music."

"ARTS and the NATION" - There were limited copies of their new book and I have just received my copy via Amazon. It is a great read so far and i highly recommend to anyone who sees the importance of the arts in shaping our society to a more caring and compassionate one. The arts are first about our humanity. 

LITERATURE
They spoke of the reconstruction by the Arts for a new vision of Scotland that are totally different in nature than the national movement of fascists, and that the Scottish arts are not focused inwards at all. Also the opening up of the arts to the young in order to move ideas forwards. They discussed places like the Abbotsford bar, which were once physical meeting places and gave connections for artists and journalists back in the 50s.
Professor Raich spoke of his two page spread in the National newspaper, that day with no adds or interference, and he said that the writing was of a very high standard.

Scots always look outward with their Arts and festivals, but we need, as these respected artists state, to also understand and know our own heritage and stories - and to look inside our own house too. Scotland does not want to leave Europe (or England) – but also there are strong movements to reconnect to Scottish stories, cross borders, and to open windows on Scotland’s arts.

*MUSIC
John Purser, composer an writer 
Until recently, Scots had no knowledge of Scottish classical music, composers or Scottish folk music. Scottish theatre, folk music, pipe music, and classical music were neglected – which has led to a cultural destruction. Purser spoke of the Scottish Music archive.
He said all students at Glasgow’s RCS (The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland) had studied in Europe, and that music is of course  international. They were instructed never to look within the house and always asked to look outward! It is scandalous that those who graduate know nothing of their own country’s heritage. Purser told a story of a young girl studying for her music higher, she was part of the travelling peoples and felt she lacked musical knowledge, but said that she made reeds for her uncle’s pipes. He told her that she probably knew more of Scottish music than those studying at the colleges!
John Purser
*ART
Painter Moffat said they were starting to take the Scottish art out of the basement at the National galleries.
Scottish Artists - Raeburn, Ramsay, David Willkie, Glasgow Boys, JD Fergusso., He said that Scottish artists won’t leave Europe. The highly respected art critic John Bellamy was mentioned. Scots are very poorly educated in our Scots history and arts.

They all spoke of the aim to build a grassroots audience for arts and not only an elite audience. (1934 SNP established.) The modern Scot world of reconstruction; the Montrose Renaissance which was then the equivalent of Paris in the 30s and was led by the revolutionary poet Hugh MacDiarmid, a co-founder of the SNP.


I agree with all of this. I was educated in Edinburgh and learned nothing of Scottish history, heritage, arts or music! I mean nothing here!  Even though I studied Art, History and English Highers and went on to teaching!  (Now I am older I am teaching myself Scottish heritage!) I did learn English heritage though, of the Tudors and Shakespeare. 
  
BOOK – ‘ARTS AND THE NATION’ - To engage in the recovery of neglected Scottish composers, artists and writers, locating them in an international context.
As the poet Hugh MacDiarmid wrote, artists must be both national and international. Perhaps in our fast moving Digital age there is a strong desire to reconnect to permanence, to traditions and to those lasting stories...
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Arts-Nation-Alexander-Moffat/dp/1912147106


MEDIA ?? (PS  There was no mention of Digital, Media, TV or film – and how Scots can access their own and international arts via the new platforms. For young people they want diverse ease of access via many mediums and that’s how they access their news also. They want control, which is a good thing.
The new film, tv studio at the Pentlands is welcome new and long overdue. Scotland first tv channel will air in autumn 2018! it’s a scandal. (both Wales and Northern Ireland have studios with the massive Game of Thrones film in Northern Ireland.) Good news is that both the recent success of Outlander and T2, have brought recognition to Scotland.Other regions such as Catalonia, has Five TV channels. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Edinburgh Book festival (EIBF) 2017 and Building Bridges

Richard Ford
EIBF 2017 Building Bridges and Tearing them Down:
Divisions and Collaborations and Borders

The sun is shining the first days at EIBF and Chris Patten, the former Governor of Hong Kong, is being interviewed by stv on the lawn. The Scotsman is being sold along with freebies at the entrance (although the Scotsman is now the Scottish Daily Mail and not the paper it was back in the 70s) and we are ready to hear, meet and greet the famous and new emerging writing talent.

Another year to celebrate the written and spoken word in the perfect setting of Charlotte square Edinburgh. EIBF is a celebration of books, written words ideas, spaces to collaborate and exchange views, inspiring stories. retrieving and renewing. There were debates this year on how to build on the nature of “civic” nationalism, with collaboration and with looking outward to common interests, shared values, an informed country, and to renew Scottish arts.
 
Chris Patten
Caroline Brothers

Simon Callow
Laura Albert
**EIBF 2017! I want to praise the many open-minded cultured, lateral thinking, travelling journey men and women – the writers in Scotland today – who value the journey; try to comprehend the new; the young as well as the past; the historic streets as well as the complex internet. They are looking for ‘open spaces’ to discuss new worlds, adaptability, progress, to build bridges and for accountability.

There are many great Scottish thinkers, writers, doers, of the past to follow on from -  George Buchanan, Thomas Muir, David Hume, Allan Ramsay, Robert Burns, James Clark Maxwell, Carnegie, Walter Scott. As well as the Edinburgh enlightenment figures of David Hume, Frances Hutcheson, Adam Smith and Adam Fergusson. For centuries Scotland had kept close and political links to Europe part of the community of European scholars – Diderot, Goethe, Montesquieu and Voltaire. In Scotland the most literate nation in Europe in 1750 - in the 18th century Edinburgh was a leading light in the Enlightenment. Change can be good or bad, but always necessary. 
Writers of 'Nasty Women'

We live in such strange times”
The first article I read was Andrew O’Hagan on his journey to Yes. Wonderful piece.
O’Hagan gave an inspired talk “on his journey from no to yes, of his being at the count and driving home after to Ayrshire and his feeling that the future Scotland had changed that day.
He then went to sit in on the court rulings over May’s attempt to use the Royal prerogative to railroad in the Article 50 for the UK to leave Europe - without any consultation with Westminster. He said he was horrified at the slamming of Scotland’s interests.
Paul Muldoon

Irish Day!  Thursday was Irish day and how polite they were too! I dashed up after too to see the performers on the high street and attended a few shows
I always enjoy a couple of nights at the free Unbound shows – and this proved a quality, fun night. 
**Unbound “Paul Muldoon’s Picnic.” Irish Evening. ‘A Gathering of poetry, prose and music’ – that included Mercury nominated Lisa Hannigans, who writes songs of love, loss and longing.
Sandy Moffat, Alan Riach, John Purser
**EIBF TALKS
(1)  *Framing the Arts’ - statesmen of Scottish Arts - Professor of Scottish literature Alan Riach, painter Sandy Moffat, and musician and composer, John Purser
How we might build a more positive future for Scotland and of the general ignorance of Scots of their arts and heritage. They discussed Arts at the heart of life in Scotland and the cultural history of literature, painting, and music. Raich had a 2 page spread in the National newspaper, that day on the artist Margaret Hunter that day. They spoke of the cultural divisions and battlegrounds and they spoke of knowing what was in their own house, as well as looking outwards. Book, ‘Arts and the Nation,
 (2) *Gerry Hassan and Michael Keating (professor of Politics Aberdeen) Hassan mentioned that London’s’ shadow was only similar to Moscow in Russia and the dysfunctionality of the UK. Books ‘Scotland the Bold, A Nation Changed?

(3) Visions for a Future Scotland’ - with singer songwriter Karine Polwart, Thomas McEachan, from the Youth Parliament), Chris Van Der Kuyh of the Dundee Games industry. They discussed Voltaire’s quote “We look to Scotland” –and whether Scotland still has this clout today? They all spoke of what we value most about people – respect, compassion, warmth. Also that Adam Smith did not only write of economics, he also wrote, Theory of Moral Statements of Human Empathy’. Smith also fought against slavery. 

Hera Lindsay Bird
John Niven
Katie Manhood
***Maybe there is no right or wrong, yes or no, and as the song claims ‘About building Bridges' or 'Fifty Tones of Grey', (my son’s successful a Capella group!). How do we build those bridges? 
A little shot of stardust perhaps – My first thought is it’s not the politicians who have the answers and their positions are too entrenched. We need bridges, conversations and more diverse voices, more than ever. A theme running though the EIBF this year was the need to bring different voices together and for physical platforms through the Arts. 

Its been 250 years since Burns wrote his epic ‘A Mans a Man’. He wrote of equality – which he learnt from ministers and great philosophical writers - in the Declaration of Arbroath Scotland and its charter for democratic principles, taken on by American and French struggles late 18th century. The great thinkers saw the hoped for ‘that all men and women are equal’ – perhaps it’s the journey that is harder to understand. How do we get there?

I worry, even hundreds of years after these great thinkers (and all the great thinkers today) – nothing much has changed. Scotland may believe in equality, freedom, education and fairness for all citizens, but we are still a land of great divisions.
Evelyn Glennie
Nicholas Hytner 
Colm Toibín
Marcus Sedgwick
Paul Astor
*At EIBF there were questions over the concept of "Nationalism". Scottish nationalism is not about race, or religion, its about all who live here. At EIBF politician Chris Patten and Turkish writer Elif Shafak, questioned that N can ever be a force for good – the opposite is that globalization is not always the right answer either. Edinburgh is very much an international and European city. In the Arts it is crucial to understand your own heritage and also to look outwards. Scotland’s self-rule is firstly about democracy and secondly the importance of being both national and international – and modelled on small countries in a bigger trading block, such as Norway. They misunderstand, SN is the opposite - and not a narrow or nasty 'blood and soil' nationalism - SN has always been inclusive, open, diverse, outward looking and welcoming and about how do we build bridges.

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**BOOKS
AC Grayling – ‘Democracy and its Crisis’
Alan Riach – ‘The Winter book’, poetry
‘Outriders’ – a special project of both Scottish and American writers travelling across America to express the state of play in this highly diverse country today.
Alan Riach, John Purseer, Sandy Moffat – ‘Arts and the Nation’
Gerry Hassan – ‘Scotland the Bold’, ‘A Nation Changed’
Michael Keating - ‘A Wealthier, Fairer Scotland’