The best laid plans…

Newcastle University to examine how communities across Scotland can thrive post Brexit at SNP party conference.

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Scotland faces turbulent times ahead. Like much of the United Kingdom, the country has experienced a shock to the system with the decision to leave the European Union. But, while the UK may have narrowly voted for Brexit, 62% of voters in Scotland wanted to remain, reigniting old tensions and debates about Scotland’s place in the UK. The result has once again raised the possibility of a new referendum on Scottish independence to allow the country to remain in the EU.

There are other signs of Scotland’s desire to go it alone, with Nicola Sturgeon announcing a £500 million loan fund to Scottish businesses under her Scottish Growth Scheme, seemingly without the backing of the Treasury. For the Brexit vote will also have significant implications for businesses – from the smallest crofters in the most rural towns and villages, to the financial giants that have chosen to make Scotland their base.

Scotland has one of the largest economies in the world, with a GDP of £147 billion a year. It conducts most of its trade with the rest of the UK and other EU member states, the trade deals for which will need to be negotiated in the wake of Brexit. The potential impact of caps to EU migrants could also be damaging, as many of Scotland’s farms and rural businesses are heavily reliant on this population.

At this unstable time, the SNP will hold one of the most highly anticipated party conferences in its history. In partnership with the New Statesman, Newcastle University’s Institute for Social Renewal (NISR) will host a fringe event at the conference to explore how urban and rural communities across Scotland can thrive in periods of change. We believe that communities need to be fully engaged in discussions about their future and empowered to develop local solutions to local challenges with the support of an enabling state.

As the Director of the Institute for Social Renewal, I will be discussing how Scotland can address these challenges in the coming years and how Scotland can continue to thrive in times of change.  Having worked with Scottish rural communities since 1981, helping draft Scotland's rural housing policy in the 1990s, and more recently chairing the Scottish Government's Committee of Inquiry on Crofting, I have a long standing interest in and commitment to the future of Scotland's rural communities.

I am delighted to be joined on the panel by:

  • Alison Thewliss MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Cities in Westminster and Member of the Communities and Local Government Select Committee, who will share her thoughts on the needs of cities;
  • Mike Russell MSP, Minister for UK Negotiations on Scotland's Place in Europe, who will consider how Scotland can negotiate the best deal from Brexit;
  • Martyn Evans, Chief Executive of Carnegie Trust, who will explain the implications of Brexit on some of Scotland’s most vulnerable people; and
  • Dr Alistair Clark, Senior Lecturer in Politics at Newcastle University (and proud Scot!), who will focus on political engagement and how Scotland’s rural and urban communities can be more involved in the discussions around Scotland’s place in the EU and the decision about whether Scotland should remain part of the UK. Alistair was at the forefront of the research into the introduction of the single transferrable vote (STV) in Scotland, providing important insights into how parties and voters adapted to the STV’s introduction.

Newcastle University’s Institute for Social Renewal is well placed to host the discussion. It was specifically set up to examine how best to address the challenges facing today’s society by bringing together research for a social purpose. As Brexit is likely to present a set of new social challenges, the Institute has now added Brexit to its core research themes. The questions facing Scotland following the vote are likely to cover a multitude of issues and it is essential that the people of Scotland are engaged in the decision-making process to secure a better future for the country.

Mark Shucksmith is the Director of the Newcastle University Institute for Social Renewal and Professor of Planning at Newcastle University.

Full event information:

The best laid plans… How urban and rural communities across Scotland can thrive in times of change

Date: Friday 14th October

Time: 6:30 - 7:30pm

Venue: Secure Zone Carron B

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