Transcript of George Reid's lecture
- This is the text of the lecture given by George Reid, the Scottish Parliament's Presiding Office, at the Edinburgh International Book Festival on Thursday 25 August 2005.
I am honoured to give this Donald Dewar Lecture.
I knew Donald for over 40 years. I admired him. I am indebted to him. And I probably would not be here but for him.
In 1999 there was a dead heat between Patricia Fergusson and myself in the first ballot for election as Deputy Presiding Officer. She won on the next count, leaving one place to go.
It was not easy to have to stand at the front of the Hall watching the newly elected MSPs cast their votes. There was a sudden scrabble from one section of the Labour benches across to the Tories. It was perfectly possible, in the well of the Chamber, to hear the words: 'Dish the Nats' ... a stitch-up to put a Conservative into the job rather than someone from the main opposition party, the SNP.
Then something quite remarkable, and statesmanlike, happened. Donald Dewar got out of his seat, walked to the well of the Chamber and - in a clear statement of solidarity - stood beside me, glowering at his own troops. 'It's going to be fine,' he said. And it was.
It was a decent gesture of a decent man.
Engagement and enlightenment
During his tragically far too short tenure of office as our first First Minister I had only two real discussions with Donald Dewar. The first was about Engagement. The second about Enlightenment.
And that is what I want to talk about today. How the classic Scottish values of Engagement and Enlightenment can involve the whole community of the realm in the creation of an enterprising, sustainable and compassionate Scotland.
I shall look at how our country has changed radically in the last thirty years. I shall question whether our political culture - 'vote for us and it will be all right next time' - has caught up. I shall speculate about whether we are trying to tackle the challenges of today with the tools of yesterday. I shall acknowledge that two-thirds of Scots believe Holyrood is better placed to look after their interests than Westminster, but wonder why so many of them are disconnected and don't bother to vote.
And I shall argue that it is prudent to engage with our academics, artists, civic representatives, entrepreneurs, free thinkers and wealth creators in imagining the challenges and opportunities which we face in ten years time, and to start planning for them now.
The bottom line, I suppose, is that politics is too important to be left just to the politicians.
Proud of the Parliament
Let me make it abundantly clear that I am proud of our Parliament. As the Queen said in Aberdeen, no-one expected us to build a new political culture in Scotland overnight.
We have addressed concerns left unresolved for centuries, like land reform. We have invested time, care and real money in the great issues of education, the environment, care for the elderly, housing, justice and transport. Our committees have subjected government proposals to the most detailed scrutiny. We have constantly consulted the people. The fluidity, fluency and content of exchanges in the Chamber have improved immeasurably since the first few days.
I am therefore proud of our MSPs and their commitment to their constituents.
I am also conscious, as I plod round the Parliament, of how they are always under pressure - living in almost constant electoral cycle as Holyrood, then Westminster, then Brussels goes to the polls. It doesn't leave much time to think out of the box, and over the horizon.
It was an issue of which Donald Dewar, from his long time in both parliaments, was acutely aware.
Dewar at the Finland Station
I had known Donald since he was 16. We were both only children. Both absolutely hopeless at rugby at school and in consequence a bit bookish. Both a bit, but not too much, left of centre. Later, we were on more or less the same side in inter-University debates and in the politics of the Scottish Union of Students.
In 1959 - along with David Steel - we went on a remarkable train journey together. From London to Ostend, through the Iron Curtain to Berlin, Warsaw, Brest-Litovsk, Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev and Kharkov. You get to know someone pretty well on a Soviet sleeper - Donald's long body too big for the bunk - chugging along at 30 miles an hour through the infinity of Mother Russia. And, yes, Donald had a bag of books with him even then.
He got me out of a potentially nasty scrape in Kiev, when I became somewhat strident about the right of Ukrainians to publish their national poet Taras Schevschenko. I like to think that I was helpful to him when, after a surfeit of Soviet cream buns - he was not known as the Gannet for nothing - arrangements had to be made for him to be admitted at speed to a Moscow hospital for food-poisoning.
He made it clear that he never again wanted to be reminded that I had seen him with an Oor Wullie bucket beside his bed.
Somewhere there is a grainy photo of Dewar, Reid and Steel at the Lenin Statue in the Finland Station in what is now St Petersburg. We are all wearing trench coats and trilby hats looking vaguely, I suppose, like the Burgess and MacLean brigade. Years later, a right-wing researcher spent several months of his life trying to prove that this was where Devolution was Done ... that this was the moment when, brainwashed by the KGB, the plot was hatched to Break up Britain.
In reality, though from different traditions, we were simply young Scots who believed that Scotland needed to pick up the threads of national life again through our own Parliament.
And even though we tangled later in life - Donald liked dealing with Nationalists who were red of tooth and claw, not social democratic, European and gradualist - there was always a bit of a bond going back to these early days.
And a common love of books.
My first decent discussion with Donald Dewar as First Minister was - appropriately enough for this event - about a book. This rather battered book, The Art and Science of Government Among the Scots.
The occasion was a private party in Pollockshields. The jockerati were out in force, but of Scotland's first First Minister there was no sign.
I found him in the library, sitting on the floor, a plate heaped high with savories at his side, deeply engrossed in the book which he had pulled off the shelves - the translation, plus commentary, of George Buchanan's classic constitutional treatise Dialogus de Jure Regni Apud Scotos.
Buchanan, who had gone to university in Paris with both John Calvin and Ignatius Loyola, was Clerk of the Scots Privy Council and tutor to James VI. In his book, he sets down the Scottish, as distinct from the English, constitutional doctrine that sovereignty rests ultimately with the people, that they should be engaged in the business of government, and that bad rulers could be rebuked and, if necessary, removed.
Donald had reached the Q&A in Chapter LXXVII:
- 'Q: The people then take precedence over the king?
He said he liked that a lot. And he conceded that there was an unbroken thread of popular sovereignty running throughout Scotland's story - from the Declaration of Arbroath, through the Solemn League and Covenant, to his own signature (with that of Labour and LibDem MPs) of the Claim of Right in 1998:
'We do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of government best suited to their needs.'
But Donald warned me not to raise my hopes too high. He noted that Buchanan's 'vile Scotch tract' had been ordered by the University of Oxford to be burned by the public hangman and had been "utterly outlawed" by Westminster.
Then, interestingly, he asked me - 'Just don't give me all the usual Independence stuff' - whether we could, in the Scottish Parliament, pick up the threads of popular engagement again.
To make Holyrood a genuinely people's parliament. Not grand, not patrician, not top-down ... but a model of participative governance, adapting old wisdom to the knowledge economy of the 21st century.
Enric Miralles' Holyrood, he said, was being designed and built specifically for that purpose.
Of this, more anon, when I shall touch on the art and science of government among the Scots in the New Millennium.
My second decent discussion with Scotland's first First Minister started during the Constitutional Steering Group, to which he appointed me, and ended with a bit of a barny round the back of the Court of Session minutes before Donald welcomed the Queen into Parliament Hall in 1999.
The CSG - the godfathers and godmothers of our Parliament in its practice, procedure and protocols - had a solid anti-Thatcherite majority. They wanted a return to communitarian values. And, by and large, I agreed with them.
Henry McLeish did the business rather well and the Boss dropped in from time to time to make sure that the show was on the road and all were happy and on message.
Then I did a bad thing. At one soiree, I told Donald that I was concerned that some of the Parliament's supporters seemed more interested in taking Scotland back, rather than forwards. That their driving dynamic, dressed up in the language of the 'democratic deficit', was to oppose any form of neo-liberalism from south of the border and return to the comfortable Scots collectivism of the 1970s.
The Big Man did not take this well. In fact, he was quite sparky.
It was one thing, he said, having a Nationalist on the CSG. But a Nationalist moderniser was a step much too far.
I snapped that if he thought 1999 was Year Zero, he had another thought coming ...
Then, after the storm, the calm.
Yes, there had been a time, he said, when Scots had played an extraordinary role in forwarding the human condition through the Scottish Enlightenment. When Voltaire proclaimed that, if people wanted progress, they had to look to Edinburgh. When seemingly everything, from the American constitution ... through anaesthetics, moral philosophy, road building, modern economics and making steam boilers actually work ... when all of that more or less started here.
That had been achieved, he said, because of the Union with England. It had been achieved, I said, because our wee country, like it or not, had entered a wider world - a new constitutional relationship and a new common market fuelling both thought and change.
Just as Devolution inside Britain and the European Union could do so again.
He gave a harrumph and we left it there.
The next time Enlightenment came up was round the back of the High Court, in the colonnades in the Court of Session, before the 1999 opening of parliament. I was having a fly fag and he was tweaking his remarks.
He was irky and crabbit and profoundly fed up with the inability of the civil service to produce a decent speech which actually said something. He took particular displeasure in the fact that I was wearing both the buttonhole issued by the Executive and the little white rose of Scotland favoured by the SNP.
But his speech was great and generous. It brought together Scotland's past, present and future:
- 'The wild cry of the great pipes ...
The distant din of the battles of Bruce and Wallace'
He spoke of the rich heritage of industrial and rural Scotland
- 'The shout of the welder in the great Clyde shipyards ...
The speak of the Mearns, with its soul in the land'
And then he appealed to the traditions of the Scottish democratic intellect, to our diaspora, to a cosmopolitan country that was part of a wider world:
- 'The discourse of the Enlightenment ...
When Edinburgh and Glasgow were a light held to the intellectual life of Europe and beyond'
Ye cannae beat that. Or replicate it.
So be it
This is not a particularly nice line of work. And it can get personal.
If you are aspirational about Scotland, you are in danger of being lampooned in the public prints. You get accused of pushing a Futures Forum, a Festival of Politics and the Carnegie Awards for Philanthropy out of a desire to hang on as Presiding Officer after 2007.
Well, it's not true. Currently, I have five jobs, or rather functions:
- chairing the Parliament, deciding who gets called when, and which questions and amendments are selected
- chairing the Bureau, which determines our business
- chairing the Corporate Body, a decent group of men and women who have to decide our finances and public policy
- representing the Parliament at home and abroad, sometimes eating dinners eight nights in a row with foreign delegations, and
- looking after my 66,000 constituents in Ochil - where I was born, bred, educated and still have my home - to whom I am devoted.
It's more than enough. And I shall do my jobs to the best of my ability to May 2007.
But I shall never, ever, give up on my commitment to making our Parliament the focus of national life, the place where we plan an enterprising and compassionate Scotland.
And that is why in the next 20 months, I shall concentrate on Engagement and Enlightenment. It is where, before I go, I hope to add some extra value, stimulate discussion, encourage ideas, involve people and help create a climate of change.
Moving in and on
When I was elected as PO in May 2003, I thought the worst was over. I believed, as did Sir David Steel, that Holyrood would be finished before the end of the year at a cost closer to £300 million than £400 million.
So apart from a little re-jigging of business - more time for speeches, more encouragement to take interventions, 'fair shares' for the Greens and the SSP - I went off to my usual summer break in the Alps in sunny mood. Thinking thoughts about moving in, and then moving on.
Then, some 8000ft up on the Col des Balmes above Argentières came a call from my Private Secretary: 'It's Rob, and it's bad.'
Could I speak urgently to the Clerk and his directors? The news from Holyrood was 'not good, Presiding Officer' - it was going to cost another £37 million and take at least another nine months to finish.
It was horribly clear that if we did not get a grip on Holyrood fast then Devolution might well be doomed.
Well, the rest is history now. Cap the fees. Report openly every month on where the money was going and what was happening. Set up, with the First Minister, the Fraser Inquiry. Insist that there was only one issue, getting the bloody building finished. Push the architects and builders to the limit. Name the opening day and keep your nerve. And never give up on costs ... not even now, when I still hope - as we haggle over final accounts - to get the actual cost down a bit.
Bottom line: Get a grip so that we could move in and then, finally, move on.
The opening ceremony
Move on to what?
There was a hint of where I think we should be going in the opening ceremony last October.
The whole community of the realm engaged in the Riding down the Royal Mile - teachers, children, nurses, MSPs, nurses, local heroes, academics, judges, churchmen, civic representatives, engineers. A ceremony which featured women more than men. The Crown nowhere near the monarch's head, but sitting solitary - the symbol of the nation - in the well of the Chamber. The rendition of Auld Lang Syne with, to the astonishment of foreign delegations, politicians actually joining hands across the party divide.
And calls to 'up our game', to face the Caledonian Cringe, to have the courage to recognize the enemy, and the wisdom to know that often it is us ...
Thirty years on
We forget just how far we have come in the last 30 years. It seems only yesterday when a Tory buffer, after my maiden speech in the Commons, accused me of treason for advocating a Scottish Assembly to help address our economic and social situation.
In these days Clackmannanshire, still the core of my constituency, had several thousand people - the Mill Yins, as we called them - employed in textiles. Today, all gone. We had seven pits within the locality. Today, all gone. We had four breweries and significant engineering. All gone.
Well over 70% of the people lived in council housing. Over half the workforce were unionised. In Fishcross they flew the Red Flag on polling day. Some even had photos of Lenin on their living room walls.
And yet, 30 years on, our GDP in Scotland has doubled and, on current trends, will double again in the next twenty. Financial services are about as big as manufacturing. The knowledge industries - biotechnology, life sciences, nano- and information technology - have arrived. There are no jobs for life anymore. The public housing stock is minimal and there are 'executive' 'luxury' villas going up everywhere, at quite extraordinary prices. There are two, and sometimes three cars in the driveways. The poor are still with us, smaller in numbers perhaps, though poorer in comparison to the rest of the population than they were thirty years ago.
Most people are optimistic about their personal future. They are pessimistic about society. Why is that?
In Scotland, first-in-the-family graduates are upwardly mobile, engaging in some pretty conspicuous consumption, but still proclaim themselves to be working class. Why is that?
Thoughout the country, there is a vast surge of political activity. Two hundred and fifty thousand people walking through Edinburgh to make poverty in Africa history. From ethical consumerism to anti-capitalism, family-friendly campaigns to fuel protests, protests against pylons and windmills, new forms of politics have asserted themselves in every sphere of life. Directors of blue-chips debate environmental responsibility. Voluntary organisations stake out their claims claim democratic legitimacy and to be engines of change.
All the evidence is that the people need to believe in politics, but cannot bring themselves to believe what the politicians tell them. Why is that?
Is politics finished?
There are those who argue that politics these days is virtually finished.
That the triumph of market liberalism and rising living standards has ended the great ideological conflicts of the Thatcher years. That its practitioners should concentrate now on administrative efficiency - and facilitation rather than government.
I do not believe this. Yes, there is wealth and technological progress ... but it has brought new challenges which politics, somehow, must address: social fragmentation, environmental threats, the dangers of terrorism, economic uncertainty and cultural confusion.
We live in an age of constant change, uncertainty and disruption. Human relationships are in flux. The bases of wealth are shifting rapidly. The voters are disconnected. It is increasingly difficult to hammer out coherent policy platforms. Or to put together committed voter coalitions.
Quality of life is is now a major goal. Indeed, we should think more about the politics of happiness - getting a proper life/work balance, ensuring the sustainability of our cities, providing lifelong opportunities for learning and cultural participation.
None of this is easy for our politicians, as they struggle to reconcile conflicting challenges.
A particular difficulty is that the tools and levers and mechanics of government have changed little in the last 50 years. Yes, there has been what is called the 'creative destruction' of market competition in the private sector as a driver of change. But it is not matched in the public sector - dedicated though I believe our civil servants to be - where there is still too much silo thinking and concentration on ouputs rather than outcomes. The efforts to make public services deliver through classic command and control methods place great strain on staff trying to innovate and restructure.
And expectations are constantly fuelled by the promises of the politicians. For many voters, participation is meaningless because they do not believe that the act of voting results in any real change.
Can governments really legislate to make people happier, healthier, wiser and wealthier? Surely the reality is that politicians cannot change society unless they can persuade people to change the way they themselves behave. We are easing our way towards a realisation of that in healthy-eating, lifelong learning, the widespread consultation on the smoking ban and so on.
We need more engaged politics of this type in which we respect the intelligence of the citizen but in which we expect people to take active responsibility for producing collective solutions.
Some examples of ideas now being punted (though not yet selected, I should say) for consideration by our Futures Forum:
- Far more participative systems for involving people directly in public-decision making through citizens juries and the right of public iniative.
- Far more administrative discretion and decision-making devolved to the level of service-delivery ... even to neighbourhood or community council level. Devolution should not stop at Edinburgh.
- I have personal experience at this level. I lived in the commune of Petit-Saconnex for 12 years when I was with the International Red Cross. Yes, it could be a bit like Clochemerle at [??] ... but the people turned out in vast numbers to vote when the choice was between spending 100,000 francs on the school extension or a new public park.
- New co-operative institutions to enable businesses to collaborate in specifying and delivering training and skills development
- Far more service delivery by social entrepreneurs.
- New time rights to enable people to control their own working lives and balance them against other responsibilities.
- And much more, but you will get the drift - people power and engagement.
This is a new political landscape. It means working hard to capture and mobilise the inspirations of diverse societies and shifting constituencies which coalesce and separate. It means change in the organisations through which we interact with others, how we access resources, and channel our energies into the creation of wealth, knowledge and service delivery.
Shared conversations, not sterile confrontations
How do we start on this journey?
Enric Miralles, briefed by the CSG, told Donald Dewar that Holyrood was designed as a place of 'shared conversations, not sterile confrontations'. It had nooks and crannies and side rooms and galleries, two great lobbies as marketplaces not because he liked bendy bits - but as places for public discussion, to bring the people in.
And, you know, we are winning on that front. Almost 500,000 people have come in off the street to see Holyrood for themselves since it first opened its doors in October last year. Day after day the building is packed with cross-party groups, visiting schoolchildren, and foreign delegations determined to understand Devolution. And who ever would have said that our Festival of Politics, taking place this week, would be playing to packed houses?
As both Shirley Williams and Neil Kinnock said yesterday, Westminster has much to learn from Holyrood about how to engage the people.
We must, though, do more than just pack 'em in. Above all, we must present our new home not just as a work of art, but as a working parliament. To ensure, in Donald's phrase, that we are 'a new voice in the land'.
In 1945 Winston Churchill had the task of rebuilding Westminster after the bombing of the Second World War. 'We shape our buildings,' he said, 'and then they shape us.'
He went back to the past. He wanted a legislature built in the great traditions of 19th century representative democracy: sovereignty vested in the Crown in Parliament ... a small, rightly packed Chamber, with Government and Opposition facing each other a confrontational two swords' lengths across the floor, as they had done since the 17th century.
In 1998 Donald Dewar did something different. He applied our heritage to the future. Power vested in the people, a proportional parliament, a European hemicycle, a model of participative governance appropriate to the 21st century.
In what is easily the best book yet written on Holyrood - Creating a Scottish Parliament by Alan Balfour - David McCrone has a perceptive essay which summarises the key differences between Westminster and Holyrood:
Now, you don't have to buy all of that. But it gives you some impression on how far we have taken the art and science of government among the Scots in the 21st century.
Along with engagement goes enlightment.
Holyroood is a very special place. In a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is where the thousand years of history in the Royal Mile fuses with the primeval landscape of the Park and the volcanoes which made our country what it is.
Everyone who was anyone in Scotland's story has been up and down the Canongate before us. Mary Queen of Scots, Bonnie Prince Charlie, Robert Burns, Walter Scott ... yes of course.
But I think more of those who, out of a barren and impoverished little country, helpd shape and form the modern world. David Hume, one of the greatest philosophers of all time. Adam Smith, buried just across the road from our front door in the Canongate Kirkyard. Lord Kames, Thomas Reid, Frances Hutchison, William Robertson. And the hands-on men of science, medicine and commerce with their can-do, if-you-stumble-start-again spirit: James Watt, Alexander Graham Bell, Alexander Fleming, David Livingstone, John Muir, John Logie Baird, Andrew Carnegie and countless hundreds more. All part of the culture of Scotland and all extraordinarily creative.
John Boyle, in introducing his Commission's report, had wise words to say on culture and creativity in Scotland:
- 'Our culture defines who we are. Our innate creativity is the most potent force for individual change and social vision. It is the fundamental reference for structuring Scottish society.'
We must encourage creativity, in our politics as in our national life. I am not predicting a second Enlightenment, but I am saying that we should act in accordance with its driving forces of common sense, cosmopolitanism, optimism and looking to the future.
The Futures Forum
Politicians around the world have been thinking about the future for some time. When Russia imploded and Finland looked in consequence like going bust, the Finnish Parliament's Committee for the Future put the country together again by concentrating on electronic communications and public health.
In the German lander, Members go off for a long summer think in with public experts to consider how future trends are going to impact on them now. The Norwegian Parliament has a five-year project, with almost unlimited funds, to examine the nature of democracy in the new millennium. Canadian MPs have their own futures network to encourage strategic foresight. Swedish MPs go on individual learning journeys. And so on.
There is no one model. After a full day conference in Holyrood last December - 140 academics, artists, civic representatives, free-thinkers, wealth creators and MSPs, together with the Office of the French Prime Minister, OECD, Stanford University and the California Global Business Network - we set about devising our own model in the shape of Scotland's Futures Forum.
It will take ideas and do work for individual MSPs, Committees, party or cross party group, possibly the government and outside interests. It has a high powered board, including the head of the civil service in Scotland, the Principal of Edinburgh University and the Chief Executive of Lloyds TSB in Scotland. It will be resourced by the Parliament - no new money by the way, just redeployment of staff and services - and will be funded from external sources for project work.
It is early days yet, of course. The Board met only for the first time last week. No work has yet been commissioned, though we were all very clear that the challenges and opportunities facing Scotland must be seen from an international perspective.
Among ideas submitted for futures work to date (though, again, I stress not yet commissioned) are:
- After smart successful Scotland, what next? What happens when the new EU states of the east start to move into life sciences and information technology at wage rates considerably below ours?
- How good is small? What advantages - as distinct from drawbacks - are there in being a wee country in a global marketplace?
- Do we want to be the world's centre of excellence for ethical governance of the life sciences?
- How do we retain our researchers and creative thinkers? In this area, by the way, we are holding a day conference with the Royal Society of Edinburgh and leading international scientists in Parliament on 2 September.
- Is a devolved Scotland a model for other minorities in the world - the Kurds in Iraq, the scattered peoples of the Balkans and the ex USSR, nations across borders in Africa?
- How do we get quality in service delivery? A major blue chip is interested in bringing absolutely top-drawer, global, experts to Holyrood.
- The future framework for Scotland's entrepreneurs - how can we get back some of the hands-on, can-do spirit which we, as Scots, brought to America over the last 150 years?
I hope you find this both engaged - and enlightening.
The Festival of Politics
We've also been engaging this week at Holyrood with the great and the good, political songsters, storytellers, academics, the BBC and the British Council in first Festival of Politics held by a Parliament anywhere.
It's a bit of froth and fun. But it's also about thinking about politics.
'If this was tried at Westminster,' said Shirley Williams, 'the Speaker would have as fit ... but you are, quite rightly, opening up the whole process of public participation.' 'Great,' said Neil Kinnock, 'you're leading the way for parliaments worldwide.' And in truth - with performances playing to packed houses - there has been a real buzz about the place.
So we have dealt with Thatcherism, the birth of New Labour, and where we go from here? Professor Tom Devine has explored the making and reinvention of Scottish identity. We've asked whether politics is still too male? We've had the songs of the Jacobites, the Chartists, the boys of the ILP off to Spanish Civil War, and of the Nationalists in the 70s. The songs too of Africa, and the freedom struggle in the townships. The very first play to be performed, by Dr Ann Lorne Gilles, in the Chamber. Vanessa Redgrave coming up tomorrow to expound on Human Rights. Andrew Marr on how democracy, these days, is reported. Children making their own politician out of paper-mache and paint. Robin Harper and the parliamentary brass band tootling away at the outside entrance. And the staff drama group doing Mary Queen of Scots Had Her Head Chopped Off at the very gates of the Palace.
Enlightening? I think so. Engaging? Yes, having seen yesterday's audiences, for sure.
Wealth for what?
I've talked quite a bit in this lecture about wealth. I'm not one of those who wants to start redistributing the money before we have made it.
However, I am very interested in how the richest man in the world, Andrew Carnegie, used his billions in the spirit of the Enlightenment. Engaging, on behalf of the ordinary man, in the construction and endowment of libraries, parks, concert halls, public education and business enterprise throughout Britain, North America and Europe.
I am therefore really delighted that we shall host the Carnegie Medals for Philanthropy in the Scottish Parliament on 4 October. The awards have previously gone to those at the front of the global revolution - Bill Gates, Ted Turner - and this year include the Aga Khan, the Hewitt, Packard, and Cadbury families and our own Tom Farmer.
Fat cats in the Parliament?
No, it's not about that. Our Committee Rooms will host leading players from around the world - past and present heads of vast corporations, UN agencies, government ministries and leading universities - all here to examine how to reinvent philanthropy for this century. How big money can address the big issues? What corporate responsibility really is these days? How global players can help address poverty and health, sustainable development, education, democracy and civil society, and international justice and security.
These are big issues for a wee country.
But I'm conscious that we were even wee-er when Adam Smith was inventing the market, David Hume working out the laws of cause and effect, and John Witherspoon putting together the libertarian thoughts (with George Buchanan as one of his source books, by the way) which ultimately surfaced as the American Constitution.
From little acorns ...
We've moved in. And now we are moving on.
In this Dewar lecture I have outlined my personal hopes for the next 20 months.
I hope we can agree that all of us at Holyrood share a common goal - an enterprising and compassionate Scotland ... a sustainable society, comfortable with itself at home, and competent to compete in the global market.
There are many different ways to get there. In this constantly changing, complex world, there are no single answers. It is not for me to make policy or to tell people what to think. How to get there is the job of my colleagues in the political parties.
But I have a mandate to make our new parliament a place of excellence. To encourage a climate of creativity and the engage the community of the realm of Scotland in the process.
I want Holyrood to be Doanld Dewar's 'new voice in the land'. A place where, together, we can shape our common future.
If we don't think from time to time out of the box and over the horizon, if we rely only on past experience, the danger is that we shall walk into the future backwards.
- 'The discourse of the Enlightenment ...
When Edinburgh and Glasgow were a light held to the intellectual life of Europe and beyond'
We have to be engaged. We have to be enlightened.
The future, you know, belongs to those who prepare for it.