THE BREAK-UP of Britain conference has revealed “several new high-profile additions” to its line-up – one month ahead of the event being held in Edinburgh.

The conference is being held in honour of Scottish political theorist Tom Nairn who passed away this year and will see those in attendance dig into the broken British constitutional system.

Attendees already confirmed for the event include Neal Ascherson and Caroline Lucas, as well as National columnists Lesley Riddoch (below), David Pratt and Pat Kane, and National editor Laura Webster.

The National: National columnist Lesley Riddoch.
Pic Gordon Terris/The Herald

Organisers have now confirmed that Edinburgh International Book Festival chair and veteran BBC foreign correspondent Allan Little will be among those taking part.

Other new additions to the line-up include North of Tyne mayor Jamie Driscoll who was deselected by Keir Starmer’s Labour Party, Red Pepper editor Hilary Wainwright and Novara Media’s Moya Lothian-Maclean.

The Break-up of Britain Conference will be held at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh on November 18 – and draws its name from Nairn's 1977 work The Break-up of Britain.

The conference co-directors are former Edinburgh University rector Peter McColl and journalist Jamie Maxwell.

The organisers aim to bring together “radical and progressive voices” from across the UK and Europe ahead of a potential Starmer election win – and say tickets are going fast.

The National: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during a rally following Scottish Labour’s win in Rutherglen and Hamilton West by-election. Picture date: Friday October 6, 2023.

Radical Independence campaign co-founder Jonathan Shafi – who will speak on the future of the Yes campaign alongside Riddoch, Webster and Bella Caledonia editor Mike Small – said: “I am delighted to be speaking at this important conference. There is a need for serious and reflective discussion about the national question. Crucially, that means going beyond post-2014 narratives and the SNP.

“There is a need for a new approach, not just to independence but to how class politics finds expression in Scotland today.

“I hope to bring some perspectives to the debate informed by my experience of the referendum campaign and in recent years a body of analysis suggesting the need to assess serious programmatic and strategic issues which have become increasingly obvious to many independence supporters.”

As well as main plenary sessions on “The Making of Britain’s Democratic Crisis” and “The SNP After Sturgeon”, the conference will stage a series of specialist breakout sessions throughout the day.

These will include a discussion on international relations and nationalism in the 2020s with award-winning Scottish foreign correspondents Jen Stout, Pratt and Isabel Hilton.

There will be an assessment of the campaign for Irish reunification with Jacobin features editor Daniel Finn and Irish Times columnist Una Mullally and an interrogation of the Tories’ economic legacy with economists Miriam Brett, Scott Lavery, and James Meadway.

Hilary Wainwright – who is speaking in one of the main conference plenary sessions, “Tom Nairn and the Future of the British state”, alongside historian Rory Scothorne, Rule, Nostalgia author Hannah Rose Woods and National columnist Kane – paid tribute to Nairn.

She said: “Tom Nairn eloquently exposed how the British state – its ghastly combination of union, monarchy and other affronts to democracy – blocks much needed social and economic reform.

“I’m coming not only to honour but also to help activate his political legacy.”

Green MSP Maggie Chapman will chair the main plenary session on "The SNP after Sturgeon".

The National: Maggie Chapman has deleted a "vile" tweet about the Israel and Palestine conflict

She said: “One of the most profound misunderstandings among opponents of Scottish independence is that somehow they are opposing 'nationalism' – when for almost all of them this merely means preferring British nationalism to Scottish nationalism.

“At a time when British nationalism is becoming simultaneously more strident and more inward-looking, the work of Tom Nairn is more relevant than ever. We need to recognise the realities of chauvinist and bellicose British nationalism and shape our destiny away from this Empire-nostalgia.

“I look forward to being part of a really exciting line-up and to creating a modern Scotland at ease with both itself and the world.”

Tickets for the conference are now on sale, with concessionary rates for students and those unable to pay full price, and can be purchased via the conference website or at

Donations to support the conference can be made at or via the website.