BfS Edinburgh: National Columnists Event Report

Written by Rhona Middler

On Wednesday (10 Feb) Business for Scotland held our second successful event of the year in Edinburgh. We teamed up with The National newspaper and hosted an enlightening and opinionated panel discussion with four of the newspaper’s leading columnists.

The event expertly was chaired by Richard Walker, Consulting Editor of The National. Our panellists were leading commentators on politics, economics, welfare and environmentalism in Scotland; Co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party Patrick Harvie MSP, Former Advisor to Labour First Minister Jack McConnell and now SNP candidate, Jeane Freeman, award winning journalist, commentator, broadcaster and land reform campaigner Lesley Riddoch and the Founder and CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp.

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Audience members had the chance to put their questions to the panel on issues ranging from the EU referendum and what happens if Scotland votes differently from England and the rest of the UK, the upcoming Scottish elections and voting system, land reform, the council tax freeze and a means of replacing this system, to whether there is a need for an elected second Scottish chamber and much more.

With all panellists in favour of remaining in the EU, the importance of building a positive progressive case for the whole of the UK remaining in the EU was discussed at length, as well as the impact of English voting intentions on Scotland and Northern Ireland given both seem strongly in favour of maintaining membership and how a potential exit would affect trade with Ireland.  Jeane Freeman told the audience that Scotland has the opportunity to gain a stronger voice within the EU and ensure that representatives are not confined to sitting in the back row. Lesley Riddoch said that a ‘Stay’ campaign must have the courage to discuss all aspects of the EU and ensure that the ‘Leave’ camp doesn’t reduce the argument only to immigration.

On the Scottish elections and how voters should use their list vote, especially if interested in advancing the independence cause Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp said that he would like to see the Scottish Greens as the official opposition in Holyrood and Patrick Harvie MSP urged the audience to use their vote wherever they think it is best placed and the Party’s policies you agree with most, whilst making the case for a second vote for the Greens. The Scottish voting system was supposed to discourage tactical voting but as Lesley Riddoch pointed out Scotland should move on to proper proportional representation and update the current voting system to one that voters can all understand. Scotland needs discussion on how constituency and list MSPs work together. When questioned on whether an elected second chamber could be a possibility for Scotland to increase checks and balances Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp called for devolution to local level replacing the role a second chamber and others instead put forth the idea of a stronger committee structure within Holyrood and Patrick Harvie MSP said that we need to think of more creative ways for the people to be able to scrutinise the Government.

BfS nightDSCF1234The issue of land reform in Scotland and whether the current proposed bill is flawed and won’t have as radical an outcome as desired by some in changing the current system was posed to the panel. Lesley Riddoch urged everyone to get involved in this debate, and said that this was helpful in having something to champion as a ‘No’ vote to independence was delivered. With the land reform debate Scotland has seen a continued activism, argument and engagement that is necessary in creating change and the more people that get involved in this debate will see less people having to put their lives on hold to campaign for change if we were all interested in the outcome for future generations.

Business for Scotland and The National will hold a second columnists Q&A in Glasgow on Wednesday 24 Feb at the National Piping Centre. Book tickets for the next Q&A event.

The Edinburgh National Columnists Q&A was live streamed by Independence Live and clips from the Q&A can be found here. A full video of the event will follow.


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About the author

Rhona Middler

Rhona was Business for Scotland's Engagement Executive and Events Manager.

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