PUPILS at Stonyhurst College, the Jesuit foundation in Lancashire, gained first-hand experience of the devolved political scene when they travelled to Scotland on a special mission to find out more about the way devolved government is working in Scotland as part of their AS-level Politics course.
Their first port of call was the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood in Edinburgh where they met, among other politicians, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond.
First they had a lively question-and-answer session with Conservative MSP Gavin Brown – discussing Scotland’s proposed plans to tackle alcohol-related problems, with the MSP airing his views on “headline grabbing” legislation.
Mr Brown suggested that raising the price of alcohol would have little effect as a similar exercise in Finland did not work. On the issue of Scottish independence from Westminster, Mr Brown said 30 per cent of Scots were in favour of it, but he did not think it would increase to a majority.
The pupils then watched First Minister’s Questions in the main chamber and were impressed with First Minister Alex Salmond, whom they were lucky enough to meet for a brief chat afterwards.
“Alex Salmond is very charismatic. It was great to watch him during the question time session,” said John Watts, aged 18, ASlevel politics pupil, who is shortly hoping to go to Cambridge University, where he will read social science. “We also met Independent MSP Margo MacDonald, a legend in Scottish politics, and Christine Grahame MSP, a prominent Scottish National Party member.” After lunch the pupils enjoyed a mystery tour that included a visit to the Murrayfield Stadium, famous home of Scottish Rugby Union.
David Ridout, head of politics at Stonyhurst College, said: “The pupils found the trip invaluable for learning about devolution. The people they met and the issues discussed helped them tremendously. They are now looking forward to visiting another devolved government – the Welsh Assembly.” Stonyhurst is a co-educational Catholic boarding and day school for pupils aged three to 18, faithful to the teachings of the Church and to the educational principles of the Jesuits.