New festival to lift the lid on career opportunities in Scottish politics

Back to news
An interior photograph of the Chamber, Scottish Parliament
The Debating Chamber, Scottish Parliament

The University of Stirling is launching the first event of its kind to profile the ‘forgotten’ jobs in politics.

The Scottish Festival of Political Communication will be held on campus on Friday 31 March, with a day of expert talks and panel events led by leading voices from the worlds of political speech writing, leadership, business, journalism and education.

It will be opened by former First Minister of Scotland and current University Chancellor, Lord Jack McConnell, and is aimed at students studying in the Faculty of Arts and Humanities as well as professionals working in related fields.

More than 80 students are set to attend alongside up to 40 political aides from the Scottish Parliament and other experts, providing a unique and valuable networking opportunity for attendees.

Organised by the Faculty’s Employability and Skills Team in collaboration with Senior Landecker Fellow and speech writing instructor to the Scottish Parliament, Laura Westring, the inaugural festival will feature discussions under three distinct themes: Democracy, Diversity and Employability over four sessions: The words we choose, The words we write, The words we teach and The words we lead by.

Laura, who describes her entry into political speech writing as an accident, said: “In Scotland, we need all people starting their careers, regardless of their background to know that they are welcome, that there are a host of opportunities they might not have considered and that their contributing their perspectives to our politics can contribute directly to the health and enhancement of our democracy.

“We all regularly see politicians in the media, but there are a whole host of professions working alongside them; from researchers and writers to journalists, civil servants and campaign managers.”

The panel sessions, which will discuss a range of themes from the future of political journalism and the importance of language in political communication, to the key skills needed to enhance Scottish democracy, include speakers Rachel Amery, political reporter at DC Thomson, freelance foreign correspondent, Assa Samaké-Roman, and award-winning speech writer and Senior Clerk at the Scottish Parliament, Rodger Evans. They will be joined by Clare English, former BBC broadcaster, who will lead the question and answer sessions at the Festival. 

A poster advertising the Festival of Politics. It features portrait photographs of each speaker on a green background with the words 'Scottish Festival of Communication 31 March 2023 Keynotes and Expert Speakers'

Elaine Knox Watson, Employability & Skills Officer at the University of Stirling, said: “The Faculty of Arts and Humanities Employability and Skills Team have been delighted to partner with Laura to enable her vision take shape and come alive. Our team have worked tirelessly to facilitate speakers, organise the programme and promote it to both students and staff. 

“We hope that students from all subject areas within the faculty will benefit from this opportunity to hear from a range of speakers and will be encouraged to explore a wealth of career options enabling them to consider the part they may be able to play in the future as part of Scotland’s exciting political landscape.”

Laura added: “It’s so important that Scotland has a diverse range of people from every background working in and around its parliament. I’m very proud that our expert speakers reflect the diversity of modern Scotland. I’ve never seen an event like this take place before, let alone be free for students to attend thanks to the commitment of everyone involved in the festival’s organisation, but I hope very soon this is going to feel not only uplifting, but normal. I'm very grateful to University of Stirling and everyone involved for helping to set a new precedent.”

The Festival is free to attend. More information can be found on the faculty’s Employability Sharepoint Site.

Full programme: Scottish Festival of Political Communication

Friday 31st March 2023 

09.00-09:30 Festival registration & refreshments 
Location: Stirling Court Hotel reception 

09.30-10:20 Welcome and festival opening, with 
● Clare English, Veteran BBC Broadcaster 
● The Rt Hon. the Lord McConnell of Glenscorrodale 
Location: Blair Atholl 
The festival will be opened by former first minister and Chancellor of University of Stirling Lord McConnell followed by a 20-minute Q&A facilitated by master of ceremonies Clare English. 

10:20-11:45 Session one | The words we choose, with 
● Rodger Evans, Senior Clerk, Scottish Parliament 
● Nasim Forootan, Senior Fellow, Landecker Democracy Fellowship 
● Tosin Ogunlesi, Director, Black Professionals Scotland 
In our first session, three experts will each offer their take on the impact of the words we choose as a society in light of one of the festival's three pillars (democracy, diversity and employability). Three talks of 15-20 minutes will be followed by a 20-minute Q&A facilitated by master of ceremonies Clare English. 
Location: Blair Atholl 

11:45-12:15 Break and refreshments 
Location: Silver Glen | Incl. mobile Scottish Political Archive exhibit 

12:15-13:30 Session two | The words we write, with 
● Rachel Amery, Political Reporter, DC Thomson 
● Assa Samaké-Roman, Freelance journalist & Foreign correspondent 
● Dr Vanessa Collingridge, Owner, Monster Media Productions 
In our second session on the future of political journalism, our panel of experts will discuss a little about their own journeys as well as their thoughts on the use of AI-automated article generation; emerging trends, challenges and new opportunities - within print media, social media and broadcasting - and issues surrounding public trust in journalism. Facilitated by master of ceremonies Clare English with a 15-minute opportunity for audience’s questions. 
Location: Blair Atholl 

12:30-14:30 Networking lunch 
Location: Conservatory 

14:30-15:15 Session three | The words we teach, with 
● Junaid Ashraf, Co-founder, Scottish Asian Business Chamber 
● Zahra Hedges, CEO, Winning Scotland 
● Gerald Richards, CEO, Superpower Agency 
In our third session on the prospects for generations Z to alpha, our panel of experts will discuss a little about their own journeys as well as their thoughts on what key skills are needed, and how young people can best be nurtured, to take part in the enhancement of Scottish democracy. Facilitated by master of ceremonies Clare English with a 15-minute opportunity for audience’s questions.. 
Location: Blair Atholl 

15:15-15:30 Water and comfort break 
Location: Silver Glen | Incl. mobile Scottish Political Archive exhibit 

15:30-17:00 Session four | The words we lead by, with 
● Laura Westring, Senior Fellow, Landecker Democracy Fellowship 
● Malcom Robertson, Founding Partner, Charlotte Street Partners 
● Martin Whitfield MSP for South Scotland (Region) 
In our closing session, our audience will learn about the historical and current challenges of communicating to millions of citizens, as well as expert opinions on what’s most needed now to ensure the brightest future for Scottish democracy. Moderated by master of ceremonies Clare English. 
Location: Blair Atholl 

17:00-19:00 Drinks reception provided by Charlotte Street Partners 
Location: Conservatory