Week 2 of the Hansard Scholars’ Programme is now done and dusted and what another fantastic week it has been. Whilst it ended on a sad note due to the unfortunate terror attacks in London on Saturday night, it is clear the British are highly resilient people and will continue to live their lives, with extra vigilancy. The Police and Government authorities should be commended for their consistent dedication around the clock to ensure the people of the United Kingdom are kept safe in this difficult time. I was very pleased to see Brisbane City has joined in recognising the victims of this unfortunate attack through the lighting of our iconic Story Bridge.
We began Monday with a Public (Bank) Holiday and took it easy with a self-guided walking tour, from our flat at Waterloo through Trafalgar Square, then onto Buckingham Palace, and then through Hyde Park onto Kensington Palace. Whilst we didn’t spot any royals, it was great to take in the sights and enjoy more of a ‘local’s’ perspective to London. Hyde Park was a highlight with its expansive and intricate gardens – we have made a note to return here for a picnic!
On Tuesday morning we departed for Edinburgh, Scotland, for a 4 day study trip. The train trip (just under 4.5hrs) was very scenic with the journey possessing stunning views of the English countryside. It was particularly amusing as we reached further north and received unparalleled views of the Scottish coastline coming into Edinburgh. During the tour, we enjoyed meeting with many guest speakers arranged through the Hansard Society and were encouraged to interact with them through a Q&A approach which was most beneficial to our learning and investigation process. It was marvellous to hear directly from industry professionals exposing a range of viewpoints on issues facing Scotland. As well as meeting with a Professor in Politics from the University of Edinburgh, we were also able to hear from a member from the Office of the Chief Economic Adviser for the Scottish Government. It was particularly interesting to hear the debate on the arguments for and against on the topic of Scotland moving away from the United Kingdom. An interesting point to raise is that the UK does not have compulsory voting so political parties are faced with the additional task of motivating voters to attend the polls, as well as vote for them! I found this facet especially interesting and this is something that needs to be careful considered in the election process here.
During our time in Edinburgh, we had the unique opportunity to hear from a Scottish Conservative Party MP as well as a Scottish National Party MP through Q&A sessions in Parliament. These parliamentarians explained their own perspectives of the government as well as the issues that Scotland is facing as a country. The debate was also presented about the future of Scotland and whether one day it will gain independence. I found it fascinating to grasp the unique circumstances within individual constituencies (electorates) that these MP’s passionately represent. What I found most enthralling was sitting in on the First Minister’s Question Time in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday. To experience the debate was particularly exciting, and this essentially solidified the information we had gained from the guest speakers by exposing some of the key happenings of the Scottish Parliament in a practical form. I also enjoyed watching the proceedings and comparing it to the protocols and procedures used back in Australia. The debate present was particularly interesting to follow given a lot of the discussion occurring was regarding the UK General Election which is being held this coming Thursday.
Whilst in Scotland, we did have the chance to tour around and see the sights within Edinburgh. This was made easier due to the long Summer days Edinburgh is currently possessing with sunset not ensuing until close to 10pm. Edinburgh is a very historic and visually appealing city, with exceptional intricacy and architecture, set on cobblestone streets and based around the Castle. A highlight for me was definitely the trek up to Arthur’s Seat which at an elevation of 251m, boasts a stunning 360 degree view of Edinburgh and it’s surrounds, including out to the sea and countryside. I also enjoyed visiting Edinburgh Castle which was a fascinating experience with such rich history and incredible workmanship. Our three days in Edinburgh went extremely swiftly and it was disappointing to leave however I am pleased to report the weather is much warmer back here in London. I am excited to return to Edinburgh (and Scotland) one day as it is certainly a stunning place with so much more to see!
This coming week I am looking forward to seeing the ‘pointy end’ of the election campaign unfold prior to the UK going to the polls this coming Thursday!