Set above the pleasantly dilapidated Quaker’s Tearoom on Victoria Street, Scotland’s Refurendumfest is a series of 15 debates dealing with the intricacies of the big yes/no. Upcoming events include a look at Scotland’s potential nuclear arms policy, the role of men in Scottish society and a bit of poetry. The inaugural topic however, was whether an independent Scotland should have a constitution.
Both men were undeniably interesting, well-read and with heaps of relevant experience. What they lacked, or seemed to lack, was a history of public speaking.
After a short introduction and thank you from the charming Quaker hosts, the two sides wasted no time in getting stuck into each other. In the plaid shirt/jeans combination corner was Angus Reid, author of ‘A Modest Proposal for the Agreement of the People’, a local activist ready for some verbal blood. In the flannel jacket corner was John Drummond, boasting the room’s broadest Scottish accent and some pretty hardline, pro-constitution views. The pair decided to take it in turns to introduce themselves and their political background, before answering questions from each other and the audience. This is where the afternoon’s session first threatened derailment.
Both men were undeniably interesting, well-read and with heaps of relevant experience. What they lacked, or seemed to lack, was a history of public speaking. Reid’s opening statement concerned itself more with Slovenia than Scotland and Drummond’s was incredibly hard to follow. Forty minutes into the debate and it was not yet clear who thought what. Seemingly aware of the density of Drummond’s mammoth monologue, Reid attempted to clear the water by directing a ten minute explanation of Alex Salmond’s deficiencies directly to me; the only Englishman in the room. Not only did this fail to clarify anything, beyond the fact that Reid was a little pugnacious, but it incensed a man in the front row so much he had to blurt out “I didn’t pay to come and hear your leftist bullshit.” Sadly this forward thinking man was shut down and shut up for breaching the Quaker’s code.
There were moments of interest and ones for reflection dotted across the session, Drummond eventually making a compelling argument for a Scottish institution based on the socialist leanings of the people. In the end the audience appeared to agree with him, maybe less because he had outdebated Reid, but on the basis that he had made the only entirely discernible point of the afternoon. Come along with the hope of being enlightened but be prepared for a debate lacking focus and chairmanship.