Scotland’s Past & Present, McEwan Hall, Monday 16th June 2014
Sir Tom Devine’s distinguished career was brought to a close on Monday evening in a public discussion with former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. The event, at McEwan Hall, drew a large and enthusiastic audience and also featured renowned BBC broadcaster James Naughtie.
Originally a graduate of Strathclyde University, Sir Tom has published over 30 books and around 100 academic articles. Sir Tom’s latest roles at the University of Edinburgh included Personal Senior Research Chair of History and Director of the University’s Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies. The evening began with Gordon Brown reading tributes from figures including Prime Minister, David Cameron, Ed Miliband, Alex Salmond, Johann Lamont and Willie Rennie. Mr Brown also confirmed that Sir Tom had received a knighthood in the 2014 Birthday honours for services to Scottish history.
A relaxed, however, structured discussion followed between the former Prime Minister and Sir Tom which examined the history of Scotland’s relationship with England and the current campaign for independence. Sir Tom, who is widely viewed as a leading authority on the history of Scotland shared his findings on the sense of Scottish identity and the probable outcomes of a “yes” and “no” vote, while Mr Brown gave the audience an insight into his time as Prime Minister and shared his personal views on the referendum
The light-hearted and frank discussion featured several amusing moments. At the beginning of the discussion, Mr Brown’s lapel microphone malfunctioned; leading to a humorous quip from Sir Tom regarding Mr Brown’s troubled past concerning lapel microphones.
The discussion was followed by a question session; Mr Brown faced several topical questions including the Iraq unrest and the economic crisis. Mr Brown responded to questions without allowing them to overshadow the celebration of Sir Tom’s career. Broadcaster James Naughtie then chaired questions for Sir Tom. He declined the opportunity to reveal his political outlook, however, did describe the independence referendum as the most interesting and complex decision in Scotland since the 18th century.
The event was a fitting tribute, led by Gordon Brown, to one of the United Kingdom’s foremost academics.