We are One Scotland: Anatomy of a Referendum

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 24th 2014

It was a momentous moment in Scottish and British history. The Scottish independence referendum. It dominated Scottish and British airwaves in the last couple of weeks, and became a huge international story.

Nearly every single cliché has been dug up, used and then over-used to exhaustion. What then as the excitement, claim and counter-claim quieten down, is there left to say and do? Actually, there is quite a lot.

Let’s talk about the immediate reactions post-vote from the Scottish and British political classes. They both have so far let us down, speaking for their narrow interests and party advantage, with no one addressing wider concerns.

Take the SNP leadership. Five days after the vote neither Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon has reached out to the 55% or offered any words of congratulation, recognition or understanding. Both were conspicuous by their absence from the Church of Scotland service of reconciliation on Sunday. The three pro-union parties were all represented by their leaders; the SNP by John Swinney.

Then there is the Westminster political classes. From David Cameron’s first announcement on Friday morning at 7am, they have been out on political manoeuvres advancing and promoting narrow self-interests. Cameron in that morning address was conciliatory in tone and style, but in content, was ruthlessly and naked calculating, linking Scottish ‘devo max’ to the idea of English votes for English laws. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Scotland has finally woken up and become a democracy

Gerry Hassan

September 21st 2014

It has been an incredible few years to live in Scotland.

Assumption after assumption about public life, society and the closed order of how politics has been traditionally done, has been turned upside down.

People will still feel raw on either side. Yes people feel deflated and disappointed; No supporters sense that they were forced into a debate they didn’t want to have. But if we step back the bigger picture is an impressive and powerful one.

It is one many of the observers from outside Scotland who came to see the independence referendum witnessed. They saw a nation having a democratic debate in dignity and respect on one of the most fundamental questions any nation could ask itself.

One group who have followed and engaged in our discussion has been English, Welsh and Irish radicals. Think Billy Bragg, John Harris, Will Hutton, Madeleine Bunting and Fintan O’Toole, all of who spoke at the recent Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas, sponsored by the Sunday Herald. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain is on Borrowed Time: The Future of Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, September 19th 2014

Scotland voted No to independence. In answer to the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 1,617,989 voted Yes (44.7%) and 2,001,926 voted No (55.3%) in a massively impressive turnout of 84.6%: the highest ever anywhere in the UK in post-war times.

The result, and campaign, will be rightly mulled over and analysed for years, but in the fast moving aftermath it is important to lay down some thoughts and calm-headed thinking. Scotland has changed and shifted in how it sees itself and its future, as a political community, society and nation. Crucially, how others in the rest of the UK and internationally see Scotland, has dramatically and permanently moved.

It has made and unmade political careers. Alex Salmond who brought the SNP to victory in 2007 and 2011 has resigned one day after the vote; Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the clear favourite to take over the leadership. David Cameron after facing the prospect of political defeat in the last few days, knew he was fighting for his very political life and that Tory plotters were out to get him. Despite the No victory there were continued Tory maneuverings, anger and lack of comprehension over the deep-seated crisis of the union.

The arc of this long campaign involved three distinct phases: the phony war from the election of the SNP as a majority government in May 2011; the slow boiling of November 2013 from when the Scottish Government’s White Paper on independence was published to August 2014; and the last hectic, frenetic, chaotic period leading up to the vote. Read the rest of this entry »

A Hopeful Guide to Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 17th 2014

This week, depending on the building US-UK government clamour for more military action in Iraq, Scotland will be the biggest story on the planet. News crews and journalists from all over the world are covering this. Glasgow and Edinburgh hotels are enjoying an unexpected bonanza with high occupancy rates. For at least one week, James Robertson’s famous dictum about ‘The News Where You Are’ will be met by the shock that for a short while, ‘The News Where We Are’ will be the same!

It has, of course, been to some discomforting and there have been some problematic things said and done. To groups such as CBI Scotland and other parts of corporate clubland, all of this has been at best a distraction, and at worst, a threat to the cosy back channels and insider deals of closed Scotland which have for so long defined how things were done.

For many others, it has been uplifting and life-enhancing. Scotland will never be the same again. Nor will Britain. But there is a need in such heady times for calmness and reflection, and understanding the scale and kind of change – noting what has been radically altered and what hasn’t – and the power and resilience of establishment Scotland. In this eve of poll essay, I will do this by addressing five M’s – movements, momentum, miserablism, magic and maturity. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Scottish Labour Having a Good Independence Referendum?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 9th 2014

Scotland is on the move. The polls have shown a significant shift towards Yes. One poll so far has produced a Yes lead, a watershed moment not just in the campaign, but also in the history of Scotland and the UK.

Change is all around us. There is the enthusiasm of Yes; the incompetence and fear of No; the distrust in Westminster, Cameron and Miliband (the latter two earning each 23% trust ratings in Scotland), and the quiet sentiment that the Scottish Parliament is best suited to take the legislative decisions which affect the people of this land.

Yes and No are both running dual campaigns. With Yes there is the SNP (and its extension Yes Scotland) and the unofficial ‘third Scotland’; whereas with No there is the division between Better Together and Downing Street. The two Yes camps work in an uneasy, creative partnership, while the two No camps are characterised by tension, miscommunication and misunderstanding.

It isn’t an accident that the historic YouGov poll putting Yes ahead for the first time was met by two contradictory responses: Chancellor George Osborne promising ‘more powers’ and Better Together head Alistair Darling ruling these out ; while to confuse matters further the sole trader in the indyref Gordon Brown came up with his own timetable of reform. Read the rest of this entry »