This event really put the ‘innovative’ into Innovative Learning Week. Expecting a conventional presentation about the political implications of Scotland’s proposed independence, I settled myself at the back of the room, pen in hand, ready to listen attentively and take notes. Within five minutes my expectations had been blown out the water. The School of Social and Political Sciences had organised an event which most certainly did not involve sitting down and making bullet points.
With a referendum on Scottish independence expected within the next twelve months, the subject has been at the forefront of UK political debate for some time. Thus, after a brief introductory presentation, each participant was issued with a mock-up of a Scottish Tribune article which might appear the day after the referendum. The piece explained how the Scottish electorate had voted (very) narrowly in favour of independence and described the potential consequences, both domestic and international.
It became clear that Scottish independence was an important issue for many parties beyond the governments in London and Edinburgh. The EU, NATO, business groups, trade unions and even Spain (who are experiencing a comparable situation regarding Catalonian independence) all have something to say on the matter.
Next came the innovation as we were all randomly placed into small teams to ‘represent’ the above groups and act as they would should the scenario in the mocked newspaper article ever happen.
Soon enough the room was on fire with a brilliant mix of drama, role play and political agendas. Having been lucky enough to be assigned to the four-person strong British coalition government, I was racking my (not very political) brains for arguments to use in our part of the debate. Before I knew it, we were being called to the front – to the ‘meeting room’ – for a conference with the Scottish government. Heated debate ensued before we were allowed to adjourn for further discussion within our groups.
Whilst we were considering what the best thing to do with RBS is, I turned round to find that NATO had turned up for a quick meeting about Trident nuclear warheads. We were rushed off our feet as the business community, the EU and the Labour Party also indicated that they wanted to speak to us. As all this was going on the leaders of the session, acting as the ‘media’, were constantly updating a mock Twitter feed with news and developments.
A ‘press conference’ was called, allowing every group to put forward their point of view and field any questions, many of which came from the ‘media’ under the guise of real-life reporters from the likes of The Guardian and The Financial Times.
As we played out the final conference between the two governments, I reflected on what a truly unique and enjoyable afternoon this had been – and also on how much political (and dramatic) talent is brewing within the walls of the University of Edinburgh.
Samuel Wilson (History)