2014 John Smith Fellowship Programme
Exploring the Scottish Question and the Future of the Nation State
This year’s Fellows arrived in Edinburgh for the 2014 John Smith Fellowship Programme at an extremely interesting time as it marked 100 days to go till the Referendum on Scottish independence. The Scottish model of devolution and the debate over independence is particularly relevant to Fellows from the Former Soviet space as each of their countries have autonomous regions and face similar administrative challenges. For this reason JST designed the first week of the programme to focus on ‘the Scottish Question and the Future of the Nation State’.
Following an introductory lecture by Professor John Curtice, and debate between Lord Purvis and Stephen Noon from the Better Together and Yes Scotland campaigns, Fellows were divided into two teams representing each side of the debate. Working in these groups for the remainder of the week Fellows were asked to look at five key areas:
- The democratic legitimacy of the referendum as a means of making political decisions
- The framing of the question in the referendum and its relationship to wider issues concerning the future of the nation state
- The strengths and weaknesses of the two campaigns as examples of strategic communications challenges
- The implications for domestics, economy and society of a Yes or No vote
- The implications for the UK’s place in the world if there is a Yes vote – in terms of international institutions and influencing other separatist movements
The teams worked with expert advisers including; Bryan Beattie (Creative Services Scotland), Ruth Wishart (journalist), Lord Steel, Christine O’Neill (Brodies LLP), Jo Shaw (Edinburgh University), Michael Fry (journalist) and John Donald (PGI) as well as visiting BBC Scotland’s Referendum Team and the campaign headquarters of Better Together and Yes Scotland. At the end of the week both teams presented their case in a set-piece debate to an audience representing both sides of the debate and neutrals - with the Yes Scotland team taking the victory.
Also in Scotland, the Fellows attended a reception at Baroness Smith’s home where they met with Alastair Darling; visited the Scottish Court of Session and were given an introduction to the Scottish legal system by Lord McCluskey; attended an evening reception hosted by Humza Yousaf MSP at Bute House – the official residence of the First Minister of Scotland; visited the Scottish Parliament where they had a Q&A with the Presiding Officer and watched FMQs; and visited Polmont Young Offenders Institute where they were able to get a first-hand view of the Scottish justice system.
The first week in Scotland concluded with a weekend retreat to Traquair House and Glen House in the Scottish Borders.
A week of bespoke meetings and visits to UK institutions and organisations
Fellows spent the middle week of the programme on individual attachments visits with UK experts and advisors relevant to their own fields of work and who may assist them in developing their action plan ideas into realisable projects.
Alexandra Cherkasenko, whose action plan centres on the prevention of torture in the Kyrgyz Republic, visited HMP Pentonville, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, INQUEST, the Northern Ireland Police Ombudsman, Penal Reform International, the Independent Monitoring Board, Nick Hardwick HM Inspectorate of Prisons and Baroness Stern. Using best practice and lessons learned from her UK experiences Alexandra hopes to develop a specific mechanism for eliminating torture and police abuse that is applicable and tailored to the Kyrgyz situation.
Vrezh Kardumyan from Armenia visited the Rt. Hon Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the Centre for European Reform, Chatham House, the Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs and the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office to help him develop his action plan to promote greater transparency and efficiency in the foreign policy making process in the Republic of Armenia. Using a UK/US model of cooperation and dialogue between the government and think tanks and NGOs Vrezh hopes to increase citizen engagement and accountability in the foreign policy making process.
Tatiana Paduraru’s action plan aims to tackle public health inequalities through a variety of health sector reforms in Moldova. She will focus in particular on channelling more resources into prevention mechanisms (promoting health lifestyle options) and increasing the quality of care. During her attachment programme Tatiana visited the Edinburgh Crisis Centre, Leith Community Centre, St Andrew’s House, the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, Alex Neil MSP, Cross-party health groups and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Over the next twelve months Tatiana will focus specifically on anti-smoking issues.
Maksym Savanevskyi with Mark Fullbrook
Ukrainian Fellow, Maksym Savanevski, is a digital communications expert. His action plan is to establish an ‘Office of Strategic Communications’ within the government to manage Ukraine’s national communication strategy and helping to coordinate activity of government press offices. Whilst in the UK Maksym visited the Better Together and Yes Scotland marketing campaigns, Blue State Digital and 38 Degrees as well as meeting with campaign expert Mark Fullbrook, Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s former Director of Political Strategy David Muir and political strategist Jag Singh.
This year JST worked in partnership with CEELBAS to hold its 2014 Policy Forum, which was hosted by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, and explored the motion “Democracy is not always the best form of government”. Guardian journalist, Michael White and JS Fellow, Javid Musayev argued for the motion and Dr Sam Green from the King’s Russia Institute at KCL and Nino Gogoladze, JS Fellow, argued against the motion (N.B. these positions may not necessarily reflect their real opinions). Key aspects of the debate included arguments that in times of supreme crisis then basic principles and norms of democracy need to be suspended for the good of the nation (for) and that democracy is a system of governance that is designed to last for a long time and have a good/lasting impact for the future (against).
Policy Forum participants voting on the
Following the debate the audience divided into three groups, facilitated by Ursula Wooley the Director of Pushkin House, Translator and Researcher John Crowfoot and Vsevolod Samokhvalov from Cambridge University, to discuss how different democratic models and other forms of governance can deal with: freedom of expression, combatting corruption and power politics.
Over the final weekend, the 2013 Fellows returned to the UK to report on their action plan progress. We heard from Tinna Goletiani who has successfully lobbied the Georgian government to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and who is now offering consultancy to disabled persons on what the Convention means for them. Edmon Marukyan reported on how he is using the constitutional reform process in Armenia to establish greater parliamentary oversight for the Armenian parliament and ensure greater accountability and transparency. While Dina Biygishieva from Russia told the group how she has drafted a new guidance paper on increasing the levels of cooperation between the mass media and the government in the Dagestan region of Russia and obtained the support of the Minister for Press and Information. Her guidance paper will soon be issued under the supervision of the Ministry and distributed among governmental bodies. Issues covered in the paper include establishing a press services department or spokesperson within each Ministry and Governmental body and issuing a charter for self-regulation of the press.
Moving into the final week, Fellows attended workshops on: the Future of Power and the Future of Risk, the keynote lecture was given by Mary Kaldor (LSE) and panelists included James Sherr (Oxford University), James Nixey (Chatham House) and John Donald (PGI); the Fight Against Corruption – National, Regional and Global Challenges with Jeremy Carver (International Law Association), Rachel Davies (Transparency International) and Monty Raphael QC; and the Future Identity of Communication with Dr Joanna Szostek (UCL), Dr Ian Brown (Oxford University’s Cyber Security Institute) and Professor Chris Marsden (Sussex University).
Monty Raphael QC and Jeremy
Carver on anti-corruption
Each day involved an interactive workshop with the keynote lecturer and panelists before Fellows discussed the issues amongst themselves and drew conclusions as to how they may address them in a practical way through their own work.
On 26th June, the final day of the programme, Fellows presented their action plan ideas in front of an audience at No.11 Downing Street and received their Programme certificate from the Rt. Hon Simon Hughes MP – Minister of State for the Ministry of Justice.
Alexander Mudrov from Russia presented his plan to address the lack of civil awareness about local development and political actions in the Nizhny Novgorod region of Russia. His aims are to achieve real transparency in local politics. Alexander will introduce county ‘brands’ to encourage people to think and engage on a more local level. Throughout his Fellowship Alexander met with a number of local authorities across the UK, including Hackney and South Tyneside councils and the Scottish Parliament. He also visited Transparency International UK where he received useful resources to help make local government of Nizhny Novgorod more transparent and open to the people.
Azerbiajani Fellow, Parviz Baghirov, has focused his action plan on enhancing the quality of education through internationalisation. While in the UK he visited the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Higher Education Policy Institute, the Institute for Public Policy Research, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills, Universities UK and the Institute for Education. His aims are: to establish a more culturally diverse learning environment that prepares students for global employment and citizenship; expand the international transfer of knowledge and research results; and boost the quality of Azerbaijani universities so that they rate higher on international university ranking lists.
Nino Gogoldaze reported that in Georgia only six out of 150 MPs (4%) currently represent Armenian and Azerbaijani minority groups despite these groups accounting for over 12% of the population. Her action plan therefore is to promote greater political participation of national minority groups in Georgia. She plans to do this by conducting meetings between political parties and minorities; producing policy papers on greater integration; setting up internships for minorities within political parties; and generating debates in the local media. Her aims are to create a genuine dialogue between minorities and political parties; ensure that political parties internalise their minority agendas; and ultimately increase the level of national minority participation in politics. This will be measured in the 2016 elections.
Finally, Shine Davga – JST’s first Mongolian Fellow– presented her plans to expand the JST network within Mongolia.
The 2014 John Smith Fellowship Programme concluded with an evening reception in No. 11 Downing Street, by kind permission of George Osborne MP - Chancellor of the Exchequer. Followed by a dinner hosted by Andy Love MP in the House of Commons.
2014 Fellows meeting with George Osborne
Thanks go out to all who helped make this Programme so fantastic!