How history might look back on the Scottish independence referendum

Lesley Riddoch, David Torrance and Gerry Hassan join debate at University conference

Union Flag and Scottish Saltire
A conference at the University of Stirling is to explore the aftermath of the vote on Scottish Independence. Picture: iStockphoto®, © George Clerk, Union Flag and Scottish Saltire in Edinburgh.
15 July 2014

Writers, broadcasters and academics are getting together to imagine how future citizens and historians might look back on Scotland’s independence referendum – and what could happen after the 18 September poll.

The “If Scotland” conference at the University of Stirling on 23 and 24 August will explore aspects of the current debate likely to intrigue, baffle and amuse future generations.

Speakers lined to appear at the event include commentators Lesley Riddoch, David Torrance and Gerry Hassan as well as historian Professor Christopher Whatley and comedian Hardeep Singh Kohli.

Also appearing will be Professor Michael Keating, chair in Scottish Politics at the University of Aberdeen, and Dr Catriona M.M. Macdonald, reader in late modern Scottish history at the University of Glasgow. A workshop by the ‘Dearest Scotland’ letters project will allow those attending the event to pen their own hopes and fears to the future nation.

Members of BBC Scotland’s Generation 2014 youth project will also perform a short play centred on their expectations of a future Scotland, and how they might come to look back on their hopes and fears of 2014.

Organisers are particularly keen to encourage ordinary members of the public to attend, and registration is FREE for all but salaried academic delegates.

Dr Scott Hames from the Stirling Centre for Scottish Studies said: “The conference is as much for ‘normal’ people as it is for academics and postgraduate students.

“We’ll look at how the independence referendum might be remembered in decades to come - and consider the future of politics and literature in Scotland after a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ vote. I hope people will come along and join us for some stimulating and enjoyable debate.” 

He added: “Viewed in retrospect, what happens in September 2014 will quickly come to seem mundane, even inevitable. So while the question is still uncertain and up for grabs, we will look at how the current debate might appear in 20-30 years’ time – a few decades after either a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ result in September. Both possibilities will be explored fully, by a distinguished group of speakers engaged with both sides of the debate.”

Other speakers lined up to take part in the conference include Professor Cairns Craig, who has published widely on Scottish and modernist literature; Jenni Calder, a Scottish literary historian, poet and novelist; and Kirstin Innes, a journalist, writer and arts publicist.

Dr Hames – who edited a book of essays about Independence - added: “What, in 2034 or 2044, will be celebrated or lamented about today’s debate, and the possibilities it opens?

“What will be difficult to explain to future generations, for whom the 2014 result might well seem unremarkable? What, on the other hand, will future generations find bizarre and unbelievable?

“We’ll be looking at answering these types of questions at the conference.

“This two-day event is not a campaigning occasion and will not be focused on arguments for and against independence. Rather we hope to explore - in serious and unserious ways - how the enormous condescension of posterity might colour the main issue of today.

“We’re aiming for an inclusive and welcoming atmosphere – closer to a festival than an academic conference. For this reason, there is no registration fee for postgraduate students and members of the public.”

The programme includes a number of plenary sessions from invited speakers, an evening of youth theatre and literary conversation, workshops encouraging democratic participation and daily set-piece debates with a panel of lively respondents (focused on post-Yes and post-No scenarios).

Find out more about the conference and register to attend here

Read about the Stirling Centre for Scottish Studies

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