Best of British: a trip to Edinburgh

On Tuesday, November 29 the Chevening Secretariat treated scholars to two events in Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, where we got the opportunity to visit the Scottish Parliament and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

This trip was one of the ‘Best of British Presents’ series of events which is aimed at getting Chevening Scholars to experience the diversity that the UK has to offer in terms of entertainment, education and culture. Scholars were present from all over the UK and arrived promptly and excitedly for the beginning of the day’s tours. The first was a visit to the Scottish Parliament, after which we were promptly whisked off to the Royal Society of Edinburgh where we spent most of the day networking over lunch and listening keenly to the presentations that followed.

The Scottish Parliament is located at the foot of the Royal Mile – one of Edinburgh’s busiest streets and tourist attractions. After passing through airport-level security, we collected our visitor badges, congregated on the ground floor and stood in wait for the beginning of the tour. In the meantime, we had the opportunity to admire the art masterpieces of art lining the walls.

Our tour guide was very knowledgeable about the Scotland’s political history and delivered a thorough and enlightening educational tour of the parliament building. We learned of the architectural influences behind the design of the building; the meeting rooms have walls that are made of glass, symbolising a commitment to transparency. It is also the only parliament building in the world with a triple rating from the Carbon Trust and the parliamentary sessions are streamed live so that citizens can watch decisions being taken in real-time.

The parliamentary visit precluded the full programme ahead at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE). Upon arrival we were given a warm reception and name badges to aid the flow of conversations, along with RSE-branded pouches holding publications and a programme of the activities to follow. Lunch and networking were the activities for the first hour before we moved into the mini-lecture outlined on the programme.

Professor Marian Scott, RSE Vice President (International), opened the session with a description of their international programme and how it is seeking to engage scholars from all subjects in a bid to increase Scotland’s scholarly holdings. A detailed introduction to the background and mandate of the RSE was presented by Professor Alan Alexander, General Secretary.

Professor Michael Keating, Chair in Scottish Politics at the University of Aberdeen, delivered the final presentation, an enlightening discussion on Scottish politics and regionalism, with the focus of the talk on ‘Brexit’ and the impact it will have on public policy in Scotland. All the sessions provided ample time for feedback and a question and answer session where scholars could have their say.

The day closed was a round of wine, light refreshments, canapes, a chance to take photographs and yes, the presentation of the blue baton to start its journey on the Chevening Relay. It was a fulfilling day that gave us all a chance to experience the best of Britain.

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