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Aberdeen University enters the Devolution debate

Date: 16 April 1999
Our ref: 421

Major issues facing Scotland’s first Scottish Parliament in almost 300 years will come under the spotlight at a series of Debates for Devolution Day starting next week.

The University of Aberdeen has brought together major political players and academic commentators for lively evening discussions and debates on topics ranging from the origins of the Parliament to the future of Scotland’s rural communities.

The first event will take place on Thursday, April 22, when Professor Tom Devine, Director of the Research Institute of Irish and Scottish Studies, will give a public lecture, A Nation Reborn? The Origins of the Scottish Parliament 1945-1999. Prof Devine will consider the momentous changes of the last 50 years that have influenced this historic constitutional development, as Scotland prepares to vote in the first elections for a national parliament since 1707.

Distinguished Scottish journalist Arnold Kemp, who currently writes for The Observer and who is a former editor of The Herald, will chair the 6.30pm lecture.

A conference and public political debate on the highly topical issue of Scottish Land Reform, one of the central themes of the Scottish parliamentary election campaign, will take place on Tuesday, April 27. The conference, which starts at 1.30pm, will feature senior academics who will examine such issues as the government’s land reform proposals, the economic case for land reform, and what should the Scottish Parliament do?

The evening debate will feature a distinguished panel of senior political figures - Iain Haughie (Scottish Conservatives), Dot Jessiman (SNP), Charles Kennedy MP (Scottish Liberal Democrats), Lorraine Mann (Highlands and Islands Alliance) and Lord Sewel (Scottish Labour Party). They will present their stance on Land Reform and take part in a debate with a team of top Aberdeen academics and opinion formers.

This event will be chaired by the Sunday Herald’s Chief Political Corespondent and BBC presenter Iain Macwhirter and starts at 6pm.

The series will conclude on Wednesday, April 28, with Scottish Question Time, an evening of topical discussion and debate. The audience will have the opportunity to quiz a panel of leading politicians - Robin Harper (Scottish Green Party), Richard Lochhead (SNP), Sir Malcolm Rifkind (Scottish Conservatives), Lord Sewel (Scottish Labour) and Tommy Sheridan (Scottish Socialists) -on issues affecting Scotland in the run-up to the new Parliament and beyond.

Trevor Salmon, Professor of International Relations at Aberdeen and a regular broadcaster and commentator, will chair what promises to be a lively battle of wit and wisdom, starting at 7pm.

Principal C Duncan Rice said the debates were organised following concerns about the apparent lack of interest and debate in the run up to these crucial first elections of a Scottish Parliament for almost 300 years.

He said: “Throughout our long history, universities have informed public debate, and have acted as independent brokers on many important issues. This series will provide a forum for public debate on some of the main issues which will affect the new Scotland.”

Each of the events is open to the public and admission is by FREE TICKET available from the Public Relations Office, University of Aberdeen, King’s College, Old Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3FX, telephone (01224) 272014.  Each will take place in King’s College Conference Centre and will be followed by a wine reception.


Notes to Editors: Members of the Press who would like to attend any of the events should contact Alison Ramsay, Press Officer, in advance on (01224) 273778.

Further information

Please contact Alison Ramsay on telephone +44 (0)1224-273778 or email