Previous events


Zoom Discussion

July 7th, 7:30 pm.

Nigel Lindsay and Robert Brown led a discussion based on their paper “After the crisis” about developing a strategy for a Radical Liberal Agenda. You can read Councillor Brown's introduction to this discussion on our website here.

Their paper "After the Crisis - Sharing Power More Equally" can be downloaded as a pdf here.

This was the first in a series of discussions on the theme Towards a Liberal Strategy, with discussions on, for example, finance or transport. These are still to be finalised.

Delivering Liberalism at a Local Level

Hal Osler

25 February

We held a meeting with Councillor Hal Osler via Zoom. The meeting was open to both members and non-members.


Discussion Evening

Lord David Steel

2nd December

We were delighted to have Lord David Steel participate in an online meeting via Zoom where he discussed "The Road to Federalism".

The lecture was very well received and was followed by a lively and wide ranging question and answer session. In particular David Steel’s proposal of a Senate of the Nations was widely welcomed, as dealing with two issues – the need for constitutional change in working towards a federal state, and the urgent need to reform the House of Lords.

The meeting was positive about the potential for growing support for federalism, which in turn would move things forward from the sterile independence or unionism debate.

The text of his talk can be downloaded here. (Opens in a new window or right click to save.)


Rita Giannini: The Contribution of Scotland to the Development of EU Law

John G. Gray Memorial Lecture

Rita Giannini

Rita Giannini

November 1

Rita Giannini is an Italian lawyer. She worked in the constituency office of her husband, Sir Graham Watson, after his election as an MEP. She joined Graham in Brussels where she worked as a legal advisor to an MEP. She then took up a post in the European representation office of the Law Societies of the UK, where she still works today.

Food and Agriculture in Scotland after Brexit

Andrew Arbuckle

Andrew Arbuckle

Ross Finnie

Ross Finnie

June 28

Leading the discussion was Andrew Arbuckle, former Liberal Democrat MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, assisted by Ross Finnie, former Liberal Democrat MSP for West of Scotland. He has held various posts relevant to this discussion, including Minister for Rural Affairs, Minister for Rural Development and Minister for Environment and Rural Development.


Discussion Evening with Lord Campbell

Friday 30th November

Lord Campbell

Lord Campbell

Mental Health Discussion

Professor Jill Stavert and Alex Cole-Hamilton, member of the Scottish Parliament.

17th January

Professor Jill Stavert, Director of the Centre for Mental Health & Capacity Law, and Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP for Edinburgh West and party spokesman on health, led a discussion in the Royal Overseas League on mental health.

Professor Stavert addressed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability (better known as the CRPD) and its impact on mental health law and practice in the UK and more particularly Scotland, drawing attention to governmental failures to implement measures to enable people with even profound mental health issues to enjoy, with appropriate help, a capacity to make decisions about their own treatment and welfare.

Alex in a moving speech recalling his own family’s experiences with mental health problems called for the government to implement promises to end mental health care lagging behind that for physical illnesses.

In the discussion that followed, attention was drawn to the report issued a few days previously by the King’s Fund showing the increases in the NHS budget in England and Wales for treatment for physical ill-health were some two and a half-times larger than those for mental ill-health.


Annual Dinner

Baroness Liz Barker

Speaker: Baroness Liz Barker,
a Liberal Democrat member
of the House of Lords.

17 November

The annual Liberal Club dinner was well attended and was enjoyed by all.

The speaker was Baroness Liz Barker. The main point of her talk was that our very democracy is under threat and Liberal Democrats need to be in Parliament. We face issues such as the cost of social care and a health crisis, our present care and health systems being simply unsustainable. We need to speak out for a Health and Social Care Tax and to be honest with people about what the Liberal Democrats are going to do. This will inevitably be unpopular. We’ve been here before with the penny on tax for education.

Lin MacMillan, chair, with guests Guests at the dinner

First picture: From left to right: Lin MacMillan Club Chair, Liz Barker and Kirsty Smith

Second picture: From left to right Kirsty Smith, John Barrett and David & Judy Steel.

Energy in the UK

Charlie Scott and Martin Veart

Charlie Scott (left) and Martin Veart

Ross Finnie

Ross Finnie, Honorary President
of the Scottish Liberal Club and
former Minister for the
Environment and Rural Development
in the Scottish Executive.

27 September

Lin Macmillan chaired a very successful meeting. The discussion was led by Charles Scott, ARCST, BSc, MIMech E, FICE, a retired consulting engineer, and Martin Veart, BSc (Geology), currently studying for an MSc at Heriot-Watt. Both have had a vast experience in the energy industry.

They decided to present this paper for discussion as a result of their concern at the lack of understanding of energy matters, both among politicians and the general public. Energy is a difficult and complex subject but it requires a better understanding of the whole range of sectors to ensure that the correct decisions are taken for the future of the country.

The U.K. Government has made two major policy decisions in the past two years which in the coming years will have a massive impact on all energy sectors and in particular the electricity sector. The policies are:

  • A proposed target of 80% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from all energy sources by 2050 relative to 1990 emission levels.
  • A firm commitment that all cars and vans will be electrified by 2040.

Both are commendable ideas to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but a plan for achieving them while clearly defining the cost implications for the economy is essential.

Many propaganda pronouncements on energy have been made by politicians over recent years, which should be challenged. Two of these are:

"Scotland will be producing all its energy from renewable sources by 2020" (Announced in 2013)

"Scotland is on target to provide all its energy from renewable sources by 2030." (Announced in 2017)

We must challenge them and ensure that evidence based data is put before the public with the help of independent and expert advisors.

Full details of this discussion can be downloaded in this pdf here.

Rt Hon Sir Vince Cable:
Brexit, Trump and the crisis of Liberalism

John G. Gray Memorial Lecture

Vince Cable giving his talk.

Tuesday 4th April

We were delighted to welcome Vince Cable to our annual John Gray lecture. We are indebted to Caron Lindsay, Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, who sent us the following write-up of his talk.

Vince set out four things that we should do to stop the “insidious” politics of populism and nationalism taking root.

Firstly, he looked at some of the reasons for populism taking hold. History has many examples, from the South Sea Bubble, to the Depression to the 2008 crash, and of economic heart attacks being followed after some years by populism. When people lose out, they turn to the extremes and we have over the past decade seen the fall in post war living standards. Significantly, the measures used to keep the economy afloat, low interest rates and quantitative easing, ensured that pensioners’ savings didn’t grow. That resulted in discontent and nostalgia became a powerful emotional driver.

He warned that as the populists fail, the search for a scapegoat would turn on the judiciary and the other elements which underpin our democracy. He highlighted the Daily Fail’s talk of the enemy within – where the Liberal Democrats were top of the list. Populists do what they can to delegitimise anything that gets in their way.

A common ploy of populists, which we can see from Farage, Trump and the Brexiteers, is to present themselves as the voice of the people. They claim that only they can do the people’s bidding.

We know that Vince is good at predictions. After all, he said the 2008 crash would happen years before it did. What many may not know is that in 1994, he wrote a pamphlet for Demos in which he explored issues of globalisation and identity politics. He mooted the possibility of a General Election fought over the EU, immigration and Scotland.

So, what do we do about it all. The first thing was not to despair. The populists, where they are winning, are doing so by very low margins, but liberals in places like the Netherlands and Canada are winning too. En Marche and Macron give France a powerful liberal force.

Liberals need to tackle identity politics by recognising the validity of identities – and people can have many. He talked about his own local area where people would variously identify as Punjabi, Sikh, Londoner and British. Celebrating multiple identities is important.

Vince said that back in the 1970s, it was the local engagement of the Liberals which helped rebuild us on a national level. The Liberals, he said, were the ones who came round and collected recycling – even then being ahead of the curve.

The third requirement in tackling populism was political and electoral reform so, simply, that people got the Parliaments they asked for. Later on, under questioning, he added that this was more necessary than before as parliamentary democracy has "decayed to a dangerous degree" with Corbyn’s Labour providing no opposition. We faced a constitutional crisis, he says with an effective one party state in England and across many councils such as Manchester.

Our chair introduces Vince

Lin Macmillan introduces
Sir Vince Cable

The final element of our populism-busting toolkit was what he described as "economic activist government". He said that we must not be shy about governments using the levers of the state to create greater equality. We absolutely have to help the casualties of globalisation. He talked about his efforts with the Workers’ Educational Association to provide education to middle aged people to give them the skills they need in today’s economy. The state needs to do more to encourage social cohesion in an age of great inter-generational unfairness, when people’s jobs and pensions are not as secure as they used to be and it takes two full-time incomes and borrowing to the hilt to be able to afford an average home. Social Democrat redistributive policies were essential to combat this.

Questions: Safe spaces, experts, and can Brexit be stopped?

There was time for questions afterwards. One strand was around the Govian denial of experts and increased polarisation and lack of exposure to opposing points of view. Vince was scathing about the idea of "safe spaces" and said that attempts to suppress debate in universities were "absolutely dire". He added that he had been partially successful in stopping Theresa May’s attempts to ban radical Islamic speakers – not the sort who advocate terrorism, of course, but those whose ideas need to be challenged. He argued that open debate was an essential liberal response to populism and all people needed to accept that they were going to be offended.

The drift way from disciplined thinking and the disregard of experts in fields like climate change was very worrying.

At the Book Festival in Edinburgh he was pretty much of the opinion that Brexit was going to happen and we should get on with it. Now, he says he sees a small chance that it can be reversed although he is not wedded to the idea of a referendum on the deal; he reckons that a General Election would give people the opportunity to have their say.

He finished by saying that all politics should engage our emotions, not just the populist sort. Liberalism could and should engage heart as well as brain.

All in all, it was an excellent and stimulating evening. Vince as ever was thoughtful and though-provoking. It was encouraging to see such a packed room with lots of new members, including some brand new people, there as well.

John Gray

John G Gray was a leading Scottish figure in the fight-back from near extinction of the Liberal Party in the middle of the last century. He was at one point the only Liberal councillor in Scotland. Vince observed that at the same time as he was successfully fighting a ridiculous proposal for a ring road in Glasgow, Gray was doing the same in Edinburgh, making sure that a proposal that would have damaged much of the city’s heritage never came to fruition.


24 March

Alex Cole-Hamilton, our MSP for Edinburgh Western is the guest speaker at the Club’s AGM.

The AGM was followed with a social event with wine and nibbles.


Nick Clegg: The global threat to Liberalism from Populism and Nationalism

Photo of Nick Clegg

10 March

Nick Clegg spoke at a fringe meeting of the Liberal Democrat Conference. We were proud to have organised this event along with Liberal International.


Annual Dinner

Lord Wallace

Jim Wallace

11 November

Jim Wallace, speaking at the Club’s well-attended annual dinner where he gave a wide-ranging view of the current political situation.

Federal Conference - A Scottish View

5 October

Jenni Lang, Convener of the Scottish Party’s conference committee, and Caron Lindsay, co-editor of LibDemVoice reported on the Federal Party Conference, which took place in September in Brighton.

Brexit - what realistically are the options for Scotland?

Lin MacMillan and Elspeth Attwooll

Left: Lin MacMillan chairperson

Right: Elspeth Attwooll

4 August

Elspeth Attwooll, Scottish Liberal Democrat MEP for 10 years, introduced this discussion evening. Some 60 members and friends attended, and indignation at the Referendum result and its consequences was the order of the day.

You can download a pdf version of the full text here. (Opens in a new window or right click to save to disk.)

Syria, the Middle East...and Britain

Ronnie Fraser Memorial Event

Tom Brake MP addressing the meeting.

26 February

Tom Brake MP, Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs, addressed a packed fringe meeting at the Scottish Liberal Democrats' Conference in Edinburgh. The event was mounted by the Scottish Liberal Club and Liberal International, and focussed on the crisis in Syria and the Middle East.

Tom linked the challenges facing Western countries with the forthcoming EU referendum. British participation in finding answers to the political and humanitarian crises was best carried forward with our EU partners.

Civil Liberties in the Digital Age

Tuesday January 12th 2015 7.30pm

David Walker lead a discussion laying out the challenges, advantages and risks that the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill bring. He also provideded some tips to keep yourself safe.

David Walker is Head of Emerging Technologies at QA Ltd. He is a change driven technologist and for the past 18 years has led technology and training companies through emerging fields and technology trends helping them to understand the future and develop business opportunities.


Annual Dinner

Simon Hughes

October 23

Simon Hughes was the guest speaker at the annual dinner on the eve of the Autumn Conference.

A sense of place: Scotland and the UK in the EU

John G. Gray Memorial Lecture

Photo of Lin Macmillan, Sir Graham Watson and Mrs Elisabeth Gray.

 From left to right:
Lin Macmillan, Club Convenor,
Sir Graham Watson and
Mrs Elisabeth Gray

March 12

Thie 2015 lecture was given by Sir Graham Watson who served as an MEP for the South West England constituency for 20 years. He served a term as President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe in the European Parliament and later as President of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party. Graham was born in Scotland and attended Heriot Watt University. Before becoming elected he was active in the Scottish Young Liberals and the International Federation of Liberal Youth.

We would like to extend our thanks to Sir Graham who gave an extremely enjoyable and interesting speech. You can download a pdf transcript of the lecture here.


Annual Dinner

14th November

Unfortunately, our invited speaker, Charles Kennedy MP, had to cancel at the last minute. We were grateful that our President, John Barrett, was an excellent last minute substitute.

Fringe Meeting

28 March

Along with the Liberal International, we held a very successful joint Fringe Meeting at the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in March, in Aberdeen.

The meeting was chaired by Club member and Chair of Liberal International’s Scottish Committee, Willis Pickard and the topic considered was “What do we do about Genocide?”

We were privileged to have three excellent speakers:

Gillian Gloyer, Willis Pickard and Dr Nigel Dower

Left to right:
Gillian Gloyer, Willis Pickard and Dr Nigel Dower

  • Rt Hon Sir Malcolm Bruce MP – Chair of the House of Commons International Development Select Committee
  • Gillian Gloyer, Scottish Liberal Club member and member of the Scottish Committee of Liberal International British Group
  • Dr Nigel Dower, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Philosophy, University of Aberdeen.

Sir Malcolm spoke of his recent visit to the Middle East and some of the issues that had arisen from this. Gillian Gloyer spoke from the perspective of her role as an Election Observer in a number of emerging democracies, and Dr Nigel Dower discussed the philosophical aspects of dealing with genocide. Dr Dower has kindly given us permission to publish his contribution which you can read by clicking here.

The participants spoke to a packed room and induced a vigorous discussion. Our thanks go to all who contributed to a very stimulating meeting.


March 21

Why Vote Liberal? Policy and Party.

February 18

Hugh Andrew, Policy Convenor of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, outlined some thoughts on the wheres, hows and whys of developing policy in our current situation and asked for comment.


Coalitions – Past, Present and Future
or Should the Lib Dems never enter another Coalition?

November 13th

The debate was introduced by Ross Finnie, MSP.

Annual Dinner

October 18

We were delighted to have Kirsty Williams CBE AM, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats, as the Guest Speaker for this year’s dinner.

Speaker event - Funding Further and Higher Education in Scotland

13 June

Discussion led by Dr Simon Clark of Edinburgh University and Callum Leslie of Liberal Youth Scotland.

Grimond Centenary Weekend

Liam McArthur MSP intoduces Lord Steel.

Liam McArthur MSP introduces Lord Steel

May 18-19

Some of us in the Scottish Liberal Club in Edinburgh (mostly veterans of the Grimond generation) wished to commemorating the centenary of Jo’s birth on July 29th 2013. Our suggestion was for a lecture or short conference to be held in Orkney the following summer. Contact was made with the three Northern Isles parliamentarians and we then made contact with the local party who were delighted with the suggestion and they got things moving very rapidly. Both their organisation of the events and their welcome to a horde of visitors from the mainland could not have been bettered.

On the Saturday afternoon, following a soup and sandwich lunch, Lord Steel of Aikwood delivered a superb address, outlining Jo’s life and career in politics and his significance for our party today. You can read the full speech in this pdf download

Lord Steel

Lord Steel

The excellent evening dinner was followed by speeches from Alistair Carmichael MP and the principal guest, DPM Nick Clegg. The dinner was also attended by Jo’s three surviving children, Johnny, Magnus and Gelda along with 50 locals and 70 guests from the rest of the UK, including 20 from Edinburgh. Amongst those making the long journey was Catherine Fisher, Jo’s long-serving secretary at Westminster, who, at 93,took part in all the weekend’s activities..

On the Sunday there was a coach tour , which included a stop at Skara Brae, followed by a visit to the Grimond house, the Old Manse above Finstown, where we were entertained to drinks and snacks and a tour of the house and garden by the Grimond family. The weekend came to an official close with a superb lunch at another Old Manse, the home of Alistair Carmichael, the piece de resistance being a gigantic fish pie, cooked by the MP himself.

For a more detailed write-up of the weekend, download this pdf.

An informal grouping in the garden.

An informal grouping in the garden

The group outside the Grimmond House.

The group outside the Grimond House


Gladstone's bicentenary

Laying the wreath at Gladstone's statue.

29 December

Lord Steel with members of the Liberal Club attended a wreath-laying ceremony at Sir William Ewart Gladstone’s statue in Edinburgh to celebrate the bicentenary of his birth.

Laying the wreath at Gladstone's statue in Coates Crescent Edinburgh.