Enlightening the Constitutional Debate: National societies launch major programme of events

22 Feb 2013

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) and the British Academy (BA) have launched a series of ten events to Enlighten the Constitutional Debate in advance of the forthcoming referendum on Scotland’s future relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom.

In 2014, the Scottish people will be asked whether they would like Scotland to be an independent country, or not. The issue of Scottish independence is the biggest constitutional issue facing the UK at the moment, with far-reaching implications for all UK citizens. 

The first event will be on “Scotland and the EU” in Edinburgh on 13 March. Subsequent events in Scotland will be on: Defence and International Relations; The Real Economy; Culture & Broadcasting; Borders, Immigration and Citizenship; Science and Higher Education; and, Public Services and Welfare. There will also be three smaller policy forums in London on: Tax and Spending; Monetary Policy; and, Historical, Legal & Constitutional Issues.  Attendance at the London forums will be by invitation only.

The Scotland and the EU event will be chaired by the journalist Peter Jones.

Speakers will be:
• Neil Walker, Regius Chair of Public Law, the University of Edinburgh;
• Graham Avery, St. Anthony’s College, University of Oxford & European Policy Centre, Brussels;
• Diana Panke, Professor of Political Science, University of Freiburg.

Introducing the programme Professor Sir Adam Roberts, President of the British Academy, commented: “Our two organisations chose to work together because the Scottish referendum planned for autumn 2014 has implications for all citizens in all parts of the United Kingdom. We see it as our joint responsibility to ensure that academic expertise and independent perspectives are brought to bear on matters of historic importance such as the UK's constitutional future.”

Sir John Arbuthnott, President of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, added: “Scotland’s past, present and future relationship with the rest of the United Kingdom will have to be further explored and debated over the next few years, including complex issues such as defence, education, tax and spending, and relations with the EU.  With outstanding academics in the fields of constitutional law, politics and government, economics, international relations and history among their fellowships, the British Academy and the Royal Society of Edinburgh are in a position to offer first class scholarly insight and academic expertise on this topic. We hope that this series of events will make a useful contribution to the debate about Scotland’s future relationship with the rest of the UK.”

The purpose of the series is not to influence the referendum process in a particular way; the aim is instead to encourage rich and informed debate on a hugely important topic. Reports of the proceedings will be published after each event.

Full information about each event will be published on both the RSE and BA websites. Registration for the first event is available on the RSE website.


Editor’s notes:

  • For more information or interviews, please contact Bristow Muldoon at the RSE on[email protected], 0131 240 2787 or 07766 915218 or Kate Rosser Frost, Press & Communciations Manager at the British Academy on [email protected] or 020 7969 5263.
  • In 2012, the Society and the Academy convened a conference on Scotland and the United Kingdom to provide a platform for a frank and informed discussion on this topic. The conference, held over two days in Edinburgh and London, was attended by a range of academic and policy experts. The report on the events “Scotland and the United Kingdom” was published last September and is a record of the views expressed by the speakers and attendees at those events.  It does not represent an established position of either the BA or the RSE.
  • The BA and the RSE are both independent organisations with no party-political agenda or positions.  We believe that it is important that the series of events is drawn to the attention of all of the major political parties and the two main campaign groups that have been established to contest the referendum. As such the Presidents of the BA and the RSE have written jointly to leading figures on both sides of the debate.
  • The Royal Society of Edinburgh, established by Royal Charter in 1783, is the National Academy of Scotland. It has a multi-disciplinary Fellowship of over 1500 and is dedicated to the “Advancement of Useful Knowledge.” It runs a wide range of programmes including policy advice, events, educational outreach and also awards Enterprise and Research Fellowships. Further information about the Society can be found at
  • The British Academy, established by Royal Charter in 1902, champions and supports the humanities and social sciences, throughout the UK and internationally.  Its Policy Centre oversees a programme of activity aimed at stimulating dialogue and engagement between leading researchers, parliamentarians and policymakers in the UK and abroad. It aims to shed light on matters of public interest and concern, drawing on insights derived from the best available research in the humanities and social sciences.

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