This event proved one of the most stimulating and thought provoking this reviewer has thus far attended at the 2017 Edinburgh International Book Festival. Ranging over a number of topics suggested by perceptions of civilisation, culture and commerce, the discussion considered ways in which a future Scotland might place itself in an evolving society and world.
Thomas McEachan, member of the Scottish Youth Parliament for Goven, Karine Polwart, folk singer and writer, and Chris van der Kuyl, computer games designer and entrepreneur, brought their individual and collective experience and observations to the topic, in a series of lively exchanges that suggested Scotland’s future will be bright in the hands of such creative and distinctive individuals.
McEachan began the discussion by talking about his favourite computer game, ‘Civilisation’, with its requirements to maintain a balance between competing needs in order to nurture ones’ fledging state on its developing path. McEachan, as representative of an, in part at least, deprived part of inner city Glasgow, talked eloquently of the barriers to individual and thus community development in places the Scottish economy has indeed left behind. He cited his own mentoring that had led him into representing youth, first in Govan itself and then at the Scottish Youth Parliament, and how much he clearly valued his own experience in this respect and wished to see it more freely available to others.
Karine Polwart, Philosophy tutor turned folk singer argued for the centrality of critical thinking and the ability to discuss and debate as essential to the personal development of children and young adults. It was generally recognised by the panel that clear and creative thinking were an essential part of education for a complex and connected world, and that central to the healthy future of Scotland.
Chris van der Kuyl emphasised the importance of an entrepreneurial spirit, although this might take a variety of forms and lead to a diverse range of outcomes. While the future of every child might not lie in the worlds of commerce and business as it is commonly recognised, the ability and willingness of future generations to pursue their own visions and find ways to bring these about would always be needed in a small country that would continue to rely on innovation and those willing to embrace it.