Scottish Independence: Debate at Devil’s Advocate

The Devil's Advocate. Picture: Toby Wiliams
The Devil's Advocate. Picture: Toby Wiliams
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A CITY CENTRE bar hopes to recapture the spirit of the Scottish Enlightenment when it stages a debate with a difference on independence just days before the referendum.

Robert Louis Stevenson and his associates used to hold meetings of their LJR League (Liberty, Justice, Reverence) in a pub in Advocate’s Close, challenging the accepted ideas of their time.

Now the Devil’s Advocate, which opened at the end of last year in an old Victorian pump house in the same close, is to stage an “indyref discussion” on September 8, billed as “an evening of enlightened ideas and stimulating conversation”.

Stuart McCluskey, director of The Bon Vivant group, which includes the Devil’s Advocate, said the inspiration for the idea had come from research he carried out into the history of the close. He said: “I thought it would be great to replicate what would have happened hundreds of years ago and have a relaxed chat in a pub about the most important event in our lifetime.”

He has recruited Lothian Labour MSP Kezia Dugdale from the No side and Scottish Green Party leader Patrick Harvie from the Yes side, along with No-supporting academic Alan Archibald, head of genetics and genomics at the Roslin Institute, and another Yes panellist to be announced.

The event will be chaired by Evening News deputy editor Euan McGrory.

But Mr McCluskey said he hoped artists, writers, scientists, academics, politicians and creatives would come together to explore the issues which mattered in a civilised way. “It will be as far away as possible from the shouty parts of Monday’s TV debate as it’s possible to be,” he said.

Mr Harvie hailed the pub as the perfect venue, given its association with history’s “innovators and intellectuals” who would gather to share ideas over a dram.

Numbers are being limited to 50 and an Eventbrite site has been set up for those interested in attending.