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??????????Setting up 

 The Edinburgh Festival does not just encompass theatre.  Oh no, indeed it includes Jazz, Exhibitions, Comedy and Film sub-festivals too, in the three week extravaganza.  It even has a Political Festival too. This year the Festival of Politics had a discussion/conversation entitled “A US perspective on UK/EU Issues” which, appropriately, was held in the Garden Room of the modernist concrete warren that is the Scottish Parliament building which squats incongruently at the foot of the Royal Mile.

Of course I wasn’t going to miss this one.

It was a informal gathering of about 35 assembled round a committee table along with Jason Boxt head researcher at Glover Park and Democrat pollster with Robert Moran from the Brunswick Institute, a Republican pollster.  The discussion was ably moderated by the sure hand of Roddy Martine.

boxt 001Jason Boxt and Bob Moran

Not that it ever came to blows, which was the nice part.  It was really good to witness two experts from opposite ends of the American political spectrum manage an hour and a half without rancour snide jibes or petty political point scoring.  It was much more like a dinner party crossed with a university tutorial.  Both parties clearly relished the clashes and could be a reasonable comedy double act when it suited them.

The topics varied widely, perhaps too widely to deal substantively with all the issues raised.  They included a general overview of US foreign policy before settling to specifically Eurocentric matters.  One almost got the feeling that we were part of the American drive regarding the upcoming Trade Deal to join the US and the EU.  The speakers were, for spokesmen, uncharacteristically open about the possible sticking points such as Agriculture, Genetics, Data and Climate Change.

martine 001Roddy Martine

On being asked quite why Congress was so dysfunctional and stymied today, Bob Martin offered a surprise reason, that of Jet Travel.  His argument (not entirely tongue in cheek I felt) was that in the old days before Reps and Senators could go home for the weekend they were forced to meet each other socially and just get on a bit more which led to better understanding of each other’s views.

A fascinating overview of the world in 2030 developed where we met with the possibilities of the collapse of the nation state as the main driver in World politics to be replaced by cities, groups, regions and NGO’s setting the agenda. The multi-polar world is upon us.

Britain will still keep her “Special Relationship” but “on it’s (America’s) terms” which didn’t sound overly encouraging!

There was discussion on the decline of “American Exceptionalism” which both sides seemed to feel would not be the end of the world.  Jason Boxt seemed to support this within the states, as well as outside, seeing information as much less controlled than at present.  In the future it seems, Wikileaks and Snowden apart, information will be the key.

There was more consensus here than I had initially imagined with both parties in favour of fracking, immigration and population mobility which is a more common occurrence in the US than here.

It was perhaps inevitable that the questions from the audience were overly concerned with the possibility of Scottish Independence.  Despite Jason Boxt’s joke that in America there is “Tartan in every closet” the speakers seemed anxious to avoid this hot potato, save to hint that the US would rather see the UK staying together and a further heavier hint that if an independent Scotland looked to get rid of Trident missiles life could be made uncomfortably interesting.  However, it led to one of the highlights of the morning where Robert Moran aided by Jason Boxt, gave a brief but excellent tutorial on how polls work and the level of trust that should be placed in them, or not!.

It was a wonderful introduction to US Issues.  We should have more of these events.

Copyright David Macadam 2013

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