media release

SFU involved in Scotland's diaspora discussion

June 25, 2014

Harry McGrath, 0131 668 9448 (h), 0775 794 6954 (cell) Scotland,
Laurie Anderson (Kitsilano resident), 778.782.5010,
Carol Thorbes, PAMR, 778.782.3035,


Two members of the Scottish diaspora with deep roots at Simon Fraser University predict that a panel discussion they’re involved in at a conference in Scotland this summer will enliven Scots and expatriates.

Harry McGrath — an SFU history graduand this fall and the special advisor to, and former coordinator of, SFU’s Centre for Scottish Studies (CSS) — is the organizer and chair of Scotland Today: Perspectives from the Diaspora.

Laurie Anderson, executive director of SFU’s Vancouver campus, will be one of five speakers at the July 6 discussion, and will ruminate on a variety of diaspora-related concerns, including Scotland’s fall independence vote.

The panel discussion will wind up The Global Migrations of the Scottish People since c. 1600: Issues, Debates, Controversies — a major conference that begins July 4 at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.

The conference, sponsored by the Scottish government, the Scottish Centre for Diaspora Studies, University of Edinburgh and National Museums Scotland, is a flagship event in the Year of Homecoming Scotland 2014.

McGrath, originally from Glasgow, is excited about the prospect of SFU’s presence at the conference attracting endowment to fund an international research base at CSS on the Scottish diaspora in Canada, especially Western Canada. With a waiting list to register, the conference has already attracted more than 2,000 registrants. The majority are members of the general public.

McGrath has spent the past 10 years growing connections between Canada and Scotland through building relations with the Scottish government, people and diaspora.

“In all that time this is the most extensive and high profile coming together of the Scottish diaspora that I have been involved in. I think our direct involvement in the conference will increase CSS’s profile as a rare and vital international hub for Scotland.”

John Craig, dean of SFU’s Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, will also attend.

With the Scottish diaspora numbering about 50 million people worldwide, Anderson, who hails from Rutherglen and immigrated to Vancouver in the 1960s, anticipates the SFU-led panel discussion will generate debate on Scottish independence. More than five million Canadians have self-identified as Scots in a national census.

Anderson and two CSS community members recently participated in a BBC radio debate about the upcoming Scottish independence referendum.

“I think whenever a country attempts to redefine itself in such a historically significant way as Scotland is considering, it generates a lot of interest,” says Anderson. “I am intrigued and impressed by the approach of Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, and the nationalists’ approach. Their arguments for independence are pragmatic and well defined. No tugging on the Braveheart or Brigadoon heartstrings, as some Scots can succumb to easily, but a principled stand on important issues.

“I also believe the independence referendum process will ultimately benefit Scotland regardless of the vote outcome because it will lead to increased devolution authority in areas such as taxation.”

Other members, rounding out McGrath’s panel discussion, are: Baroness Liddell of Coatdyke who was Secretary of State for Scotland in Tony Blair’s government; David Speedie from the Carnegie Council of Ethics in International Affairs; University of Melbourne Professor Stuart Mcintyre and Alan Bain, President of the American-Scottish Foundation.

Simon Fraser University is consistently ranked among Canada's top comprehensive universities and is one of the top 50 universities in the world under 50 years old. With campuses in Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey, B.C., SFU engages actively with the community in its research and teaching, delivers almost 150 programs to more than 30,000 students, and has more than 125,000 alumni in 130 countries.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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