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 »

Beyond the Cultural Cringe: The Need for a Multi-Story Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 3rd 2014

The independence referendum is remaking Scotland. History is being made which scholars will look back and study years from now. The very idea of Scotland is on the move and changing, as is what we think of as politics and even the notion of what is public.

One of the constant refrains, both in the independence debate, and over the last 30 years, has been the importance, role and, critically, the fragility of Scottish culture.

Whether it has been the existence (or not) of a ‘cultural renaissance’ in the 1980s, the supposed influence of Alasdair Gray’s ‘Lanark’, or artistic and cultural figures becoming politically engaged, first in the 1980s, and now in the referendum, the politics of culture have influenced both cultural politics and politics per se.

At the same time, a counter-strand has worried about Scottish culture, that its very existence might be under threat and that somehow it might be assimilated or excised. In certain circles, this anxiety has reached a crescendo in the independence debate which has been revealing, but which has deeper roots in history and the Scottish psyche. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland: On the Eve of a Historic Choice

Gerry Hassan, Caledonian Dreaming: The Quest for a Different Scotland, Luath Press £11.99

Reviewed by Joe Lafferty

On the eve of a historic referendum on Scottish independence in September 2014, Gerry Hassan’s Caledonian Dreaming is a landmark book. He articulates, with incisive political and historical analysis, the landscape of what has taken the UK and Scotland to where they are today. And at the same time, this is a profoundly human book.

Hassan is no stranger to serious and heavyweight political analysis with a number of books under his belt from The Strange Death of Labour Scotland to editing the collection Scotland 2020: Hopeful Stories for a Northern Nation. Also, Hassan was behind a major project in Glasgow that resulted in a book – The Dreaming City: Glasgow 2020 and the Power of Mass Imagination – where many people across the city articulated their dreams for their city. His desire to create opportunities to connect people to their dreams, where they may find their voice, is a continuing passion for him as a writer and activist. Read the rest of this entry »

A Journey into the World of George Galloway

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 27th 2014

Many ridiculous things have been said in the independence referendum.

There was Alex Salmond’s questioning of Alistair Darling in the first debate on the possibilities of ‘aliens’; Jenny Hjul in the ‘Daily Telegraph’ on ‘the enemy’ next door and then trying to pass it off as humour; and only last week Polly Toynbee in ‘The Guardian’ referenced Alex Salmond and Robert Bruce, then wrote, ‘That’s what fighters the world over say’, listing a host of warzones from Gaza to Syria, Iraq and Ukraine, and then publically denied making any connection.

Yet the prize for the most consistent performer in saying outlandish things in the independence referendum has been, like the Scottish Premiership, no real contest. In an analogy he would undoubtedly approve of, the Celtic FC in this context is the (thankfully) one and only: George Galloway, erstwhile MP for Bradford West.

Last week Galloway took his ‘Just Say Naw’ tour to Portobello Town Hall on a sunlit Wednesday night. In an Edinburgh of many attractions, Galloway attracted an audience of just under 200, nearly all of whom, if the applause and tuts were any guide were convinced No voters, with a couple of undecided, and a sprinkling of half a dozen Yes voters out for an evening’s entertainment. Read the rest of this entry »