Scotland & Ireland: A Constitutional Moment for Change?

Our Speaker

Dr Paul Gillespie, Univ College Dublin

Last month, our Greater Glasgow group asked Dr Paul Gillespie to join them. He talked about Scotland and Ireland, comparing and contrasting our two nations : constitutionally, economically, politically and historically. That’s a pretty extensive remit for an hour or so’s meeting but they made a good start!

Paul Gillespie is a former foreign affairs editor for the Irish Times. Now he focuses on research as a political analyst working in the field of Irish, Scottish and UK issues. For example:

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Security & Defence in an Independent Scotland

Isobel Lindsay

….. is a well-known peace activist. She was a founding member of the cross-party Campaign for a Scottish Assembly in the early ’80s paving the way for the Constitutional Convention and, ultimately, the Scottish Parliament itself.

These days she is a member of the Scottish Independence Convention and has written a paper on Security for their set of Transition Papers. Isobel met (online) with Glasgow Pensioners4Indy to speak about that paper. She laid out the main Security issues which will need clarified before independence. And with that clarification in place, we’ll be able to achieve a smooth transition and over a shorter time-scale after independence.

You can listen to Isobel here:

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George Gunn, writer, playwright, poet…..

Julia Laurie, convenor of Edinburgh & Lothians Pensioners4Indy group, writes:

At the beginning of 2021, I was running out of ideas for speakers. So at one of our weekly committee meetings, I asked for ideas. Caroline MacLeod suggested George Gunn as  she had read a beautifully written article by George, published on the Bella Caledonia page in the Sunday National. Also of interest is this Alan Riech article on George Gunn.

George has been writer-in-residence for the Orkney Islands Council and the Scottish Poetry Library in Ullapool. He is well known as a playwright, with over 50 productions for stage and radio. From 1992 to 2010 he was Artistic Director of Grey Coast Theatre Company, which he co-founded. He has produced several series for BBC Radio Scotland and Radio 4.

A book about Caithness, The Province of the Cat, was published in 2015, and a novel The Great Edge, in 2017. This year, George will publish his 10th book of poems “Chronicles of the First Light” (Drunk Muse Press), and is the Caithness Makar at the Lyth Arts Centre. He is also a strong Independence Supporter!

In the meeting …

I don’t think George had participated in many meetings like ours, and was not sure where to start. So I asked to tell us about himself and thereafter we sat in our homes completely mesmerised. He talks about growing up in Dunnet, the northernmost village in Scotland and attending high school in Thurso. He told about the Dounreay nuclear establishment and the effect it had, and still has on the community. We heard about his family history. It was a pure joy to sit and listen to George talking about a life that most of us have never experienced, and learning what a tough life it can be at the north of the Scottish mainland. 

We discussed land reform and education among many other subjects but I really don’t want to say any more. Please simply listen and enjoy as much as we did.

What a small world it is! Before the meeting started, one of our members told George that her poetry group is presently enjoying a book of poems called “Quines: Poems in Tribute to Women of Scotland” written by Gerda Stevenson. It turns out that George knows Gerda well, so they had a rare chat even before the meeting started.

By sheer coincidence, on the same day as our meeting,  the National published an article about Mairi Mhor nan Oran (Great Mary of the Songs) who is celebrated in Gerda’s book.

I hope you enjoyed listening to George, a truly gifted, fascinating and quite unassuming man. Many of our members considered the meeting to be one of the best we had ever had.

In April …..

Our next speaker will be blogger Peter A Bell, a favourite of ours who last joined us in October 2020 for chat. And we agreed that he would return in the spring. By April the Brexit transition period will be over. Our election in May will be close. And the political landscape will be changing.

Both Votes SNP? Or Split Our Indy Vote?

The Greater Glasgow group invited Tony Grahame to speak about how the D’Hondt system is used to calculate who wins List MSPs in the Holyrood elections.

Tony took us through the Glasgow List vote from 2016 explaining how the List seats were allocated. He also compared overall Scottish list results from 2016 with those from 2011. And he showed how a small rise or fall in a party’s proportion of the list vote can result in large changes in number of seats gained or lost.

You can listen to the talk, followed by questions, here, and scroll down for the slides that Tony used in his talk:

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