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Scotland branch

The area covered by the Scotland branch and can be seen on our Post Code Map.
For further details please contact the Chairman and Secretary:

Nicola Chakraverty (1984)
Email: society.scotland.chair@caths.cam.ac.uk


Upcoming Events

Edinburgh on Friday 27 March 2020 at The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre

The St Catharine's Society Scottish Branch is planning a meeting in Edinburgh on Friday 27 March 2020 at The Sir Arthur Conan Doyle Centre, 25 Palmerston Place, Haymarket, Edinburgh. We will meet in The Sanctuary Room from 6.30pm for drinks followed by a talk by Lord Des Browne, Fellow Commoner at St Catharine's. Lord Browne is involved in national BioSecurity initiatives as well as the recent report by UK Fires, 'Absolute Zero' discussing technological and lifestyle efforts to address zero carbon emissions targets so this promises to be a fascinating evening.

After Lord Browne's talk and some lively discussion afterwards we plan to move on to the Omar Khayyam restaurant in Haymarket for a meal together (at individual cost).

The cost for the talk and a welcome drink will be £10 per person. Members in Scotland should have received a direct email, however if you haven't and are interested in joining us, please contact the Scottish Branch Chair at the address at the top of the page.

Please be in touch as soon as possible and in any case by Friday 13 March so that the venue and the restaurant can know the final numbers.

I do hope you will be able to join us for what promises to be a fascinating evening.


Previous Events

V&A Dundee - April 2019

On Sunday 28th April 2019 the Scottish Branch met at the V&A Dundee for a light lunch followed by a tour of the highlights of the first V&A museum outside London.

The museum is in a spectacular location, right on the River Tay and adjacent to RRS Discovery, which took Scott and Shackleton to the Antarctic in the early 20th century. We were a large group of 25 and blessed with sunshine for a fascinating tour of the building's architecture, both outside and inside. Our guide was very engaging, keeping everyone interested and leaving us feeling much more knowledgeable about the design process and vision for this striking building. We then had a quick talk about a couple of exhibits in the Scottish Design Gallery, before finishing up in Charles Rennie Mackintosh's 'Oak Room'. This is a complete room which was part of a suite of tearooms designed by him and in operation in Glasgow in the early 20th century.

There is clearly much more to see than was possible in the one-hour tour. We all felt our appetites had been whetted for more, with many of us promising ourselves to return to explore more in the Scottish Design Gallery, possibly with a more specific tour, and also to visit the current temporary exhibition, 'Videogames: Design/Play/Disrupt' which runs until 8 September 2019.

'Meet the Master - again' - Tuesday 25 September 2018

Branch members gathered at the New Club in Edinburgh on the evening of Tuesday 25 September to meet the Master and to hear him talk about nanotechnology and nanoscience and the role they play in the world today. Sir Mark gave a very interesting and enjoyable talk which was followed by a lively question and answer session covering a wide range of pertinent issues. Most members stayed on for a relaxed and sociable meal at the New Club afterwards, renewing old acquaintances and making new connections.

(Not) Meet the Master Event - November 2017

Branch members were looking forward to meeting Sir Mark Welland on 29 November, and hearing a talk from him about nanotechnology and nanoscience. Unfortunately, Sir Mark had to pull out at short notice, but instead, Deborah Loveluck, Development Director gave us a very interesting update on the college and her reflections on her ten years at St Catharine's. We are very grateful to Deborah for standing in with such an interesting talk at very short notice. After the talk, members enjoyed a very convivial dinner at the Royal OverSeas League.

Fifty Years of Change in the Wine Trade - March 2017

At the March 2017 event for the Scottish Branch of the St Catharine's Society, Michael Romer, a fellow alumnus, spoke to us about "Fifty Years of Change in the Wine Trade". Michael had recently retired as a longstanding wine merchant in Marchmont in Edinburgh where he had been renowned for his extensive selection of wine and unusual options, as well as friendly and discerning service to customers. He gave an interesting and entertaining account of how the wine trade has evolved over the years.

The evening started with a drinks reception and following the Lecture the majority of members enjoyed a convivial dinner at the Royal Overseas League.

The EU referendum: why it matters and what will probably happen - Friday 20 November 2015 at the Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh

At the Royal Scots Club in Edinburgh on the evening of Friday 20 November, Sir John Grant, former UK ambassador to the EU, gave a very interesting and informative exposition of why and how the referendum has come about, what renegotiations are taking place, how the campaigns are likely to develop and what the possible outcomes might involve.

After graduating from St. Catharine's in 1976 (in French and German) Sir John joined the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Following postings in Stockholm, Moscow and London, he was transferred to Brussels in 1989. He spent 12 of the next 18 years there, in four different roles in the UK Permanent Representation to the EU - his final job was as Britain's Ambassador to the EU from 2003 - 2007. He then went to the private sector and recently retired from BG Group, a major British oil and gas company.

John analysed the UK's history as a member of the EU and its longstanding record of being in a minority on very many issues. He explained why the UK has always felt uncomfortable in giving away power to the EU and the differences in legal systems and culture which underpinned our natural scepticism. He discussed the four areas which the Prime Minster is seeking to renegotiate, summarising the three which were likely to be achieved and the likely compromises which might be reached on the fourth. In allowing for the renegotiations and the necessary 4 month campaign, he suggested that an Autumn 2016 referendum was now, on balance, looking more likely but June could not be ruled out. Overall he thought that a preference for the status quo would carry the day: the electorate would come to realise the benefits of the Single Market for both businesses and individuals, and would vote, narrowly, to remain in the EU.

Sir John also hypothesised other possible outcomes from the referendum, including the difficulties of negotiating departure arrangements and the consequential changes to all economic regulation in the UK. He also considered what Scotland's position might be in the event of a vote to leave and questioned whether the Scots would really vote for independence and for a border between Scotland and England which would also be the external border of the EU, possibly leading to tariffs on goods exported from the rest of the UK to Scotland, as well as border controls.

We were grateful to have Deborah Loveluck and Guy Beringer from the college, and Deborah gave us an update on college developments.

Scottish branch members greatly enjoyed John's very engaging talk and responded with a variety of stimulating questions. The event was followed by dinner at the club.

Burrell Collection visit in Pollok Country Park in Glasgow - on Saturday 21 March 2015

The Scottish Branch spent a sunny Saturday in Pollok Country Park in Glasgow on Saturday 21 March. The main focus of the visit was the Burrell Collection, an accumulation of over 8,000 objects, artefacts, paintings and tapestries amassed by Sir William Burrell over a period of 80 years. A shrewd and prudent businessman and collector, he chose carefully what he purchased, and the collection contains many globally unique and important pieces, a large proportion of which are in pristine condition.

In 1944, Sir William gifted his entire collection to the City of Glasgow - with a number of conditions. The collection had to be freely accessible, and housed in a rural setting away from the damaging effects of the city's pollution. No such site had been identified by the time he died in 1958, but in 1967 Pollok House and its estate was also gifted to Glasgow City Council, and this provided an excellent rural setting (at that time) for the Burrell Collection. A building was constructed specifically to house the collection which finally went on display in 1983.

We were all very impressed at the quality and breadth of the collection and the many interesting pieces to see, and our guide's enthusiasm and knowledge kept us all inspired and interested. The building itself, with its sandstone and other natural materials, and its areas of natural light and relative darkness, provides an excellent variety of conditions to protect and display the Collection's objects. Unfortunately, despite its relatively young age and modern design, the roof is leaking in all sorts of places, and the building is festooned with bits of tarpaulin hanging from the ceiling and strategically placed buckets on the floor, and quite a number of the Collection's paintings and other objects have been removed for safe keeping. It is hoped that the building will close within the next year for a long period of roof reconstruction, although the funding for this seems to be in doubt. Ironically, the cost could be funded by selling two of the Collection's most valuable objects - but such a sale is prevented by the terms of the bequest and would trigger the reversion of the whole collection from the city of Glasgow to the descendants of Sir William.

So, we were lucky to get to see much of the Collection before it goes into safekeeping whilst the roof is rebuilt - even if we missed a few items already stored away for safekeeping.

We also enjoyed a very pleasant lunch half a mile's walk away at Pollok House, now a National Trust property, where we ate in the Edwardian Kitchen Restaurant. Afterwards, some of us went back to the Burrell to have a further look around, some went into Pollok House, and some headed off to other engagements or to watch the closing stages of the concluding day of the Six Nations Rugby. A very pleasant day (except perhaps for Scotland's Rugby supporters!!).




Scottish Branch Event: Weighing up the Economics of Scottish Independence

Professor Gavin McCrone, former Chief Economic Adviser to the Scottish Office and former senior civil servant in the Scottish Government, gave an excellent lecture to the Scottish Branch of the St Catharine's Society on Monday 12 May 2014 at the New Club in Edinburgh. His talk was very interesting and informative, and also comprehensive, covering issues such as:

  • the current comparative economic performance of Scotland in the UK;
  • the pros and cons of the various currency options which an independent Scotland might pursue;
  • the likelihood of an Independent Scotland remaining as (or becoming) a member of the EU;
  • the consequences of Scottish independence for the banking and energy sectors; and
  • the impact of Scottish independence on mortgages and pensions.

Speaking with such gravitas and with occasional humour thrown in, he was also very impressive in responding to a wide variety of questions.

Professor McCrone, who was at St Catharine's from 1954 to 1957, contributes regularly on economic matters, and has recently published his second edition of "Scottish Independence: Weighing up the Economics", a concise and very readable account of the economic issues likely to impact on an independent Scotland.



Branch Annual Report 2017

Last modified 5th March 2020