Scottish Labour: The Never-ending Soap Opera That Matters

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 29th 2014

Scottish Labour loves talking about itself.  The evidence for this is everywhere in the last few days, in print media, TV and radio studios, and social media.

Organisations which have lost their way, which are in decline and crisis, often do this as a displacement activity. Think of the Tories ‘banging on’ about Europe, or the BBC post-Savile. Such behaviour is never a good sign. It makes people think their internal obsessions are important, and that the minutiae of such debates matter to the public.

The first lesson for Labour is that lots of what it is doing does not matter at the moment. Labour has become a soap opera, one with diminishing ratings. If it were say ‘Eastenders’, it would be one where most of the original cast and big hitters (Angie and Den) have left, it is reduced to the B, then C list, and no one knows who is in it apart from a few fanatics.

The only reason the show remains on the screen is that no one has the energy or interest to pull it. Scottish Labour is the longest running soap opera currently on the go in the country. It is longer running than its main competitor for attention, drama and inadvertent comedy – Rangers FC. That’s not an honour. Read the rest of this entry »

When Britannia Ruled the Waves

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 22nd 2014

The act of sailing has long been one of the ways humans have tested themselves, measuring their endurance, reflecting on life and its meaning, from Ernest Hemingway to Jonathan Raban’s ‘Coasting’, an account of sailing round Britain at the time of the Falklands war.

The experience of cruising in pleasure boats, ocean liners and luxury ships is a very different world. One filled with images of a mix of ‘Casino Royale’ and Monte Carlo stereotypes, rich playboys, people gambling and endless hedonism.

The reality is a bit different in what is a multi-billion pound industry which caters for all sorts of different interests and incomes. This was illustrated by my recent ten day cruise on the Fred. Olsen ship the MS Black Watch which sailed from North Shields across the North Sea to the Baltic, stopping off in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo, and sailing up the Kiel Canal.

The Black Watch first came into service in 1972 and like all Olsen liners is a middle sized ship compared to the behemoths being built for the ever opulent who wish to maintain their lifestyle on the seas. Captained by Finnish Mikael Degerlund, the ship had 765 passengers from nine countries, most from the UK, and 340 crew from eighteen countries. Read the rest of this entry »

Is Social Justice Really What Defines Modern Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 8th 2014

There are many Scotlands and there are many realities, lives and experiences which do not find favour or voice in prevailing public descriptions.

Many of our dominant versions give centrestage to politics, which isn’t all there is to life anywhere. Think of Yes and No, unionism and nationalism, left and right, Labour and SNP, Tory and anti-Tory. These are all politically restrictive labels in which some see themselves, and that define others who are different to them.

How much of Scotland do these terms capture and miss out? Which of the above can really claim to speak for all, or even most of, Scotland? Indeed, is it possible at the moment to describe and do justice to the diverse and contradictory realities of this country?

Last week I caught two versions of very different Scotlands. On one day I spoke to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on Scotland after the referendum. People at this event were animated, informed, and fully aware of divergent forces and tensions – Scottish, British, European and global – which influenced their work. They recognised that there was a distinct Scottish political environment, a version of SNP machine politics, problematic Westminster politics, and a Tory Party agenda which was going somewhere unpleasant with its mix of populism and scapegoating. Read the rest of this entry »

Changin Scotland

A weekend of politics, culture and ideas …. And fun!

Friday November 28th-Sunday November 30th

The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool


THE LAST CHANGIN SCOTLAND WEEKEND Read the rest of this entry »

After the Spirit of 2014

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 1st 2014

It is now coming up for two weeks tomorrow since Scotland’s independence referendum.

The world moves on. The UK media’s attention has switched back to its usual tropes: Westminster parlour games and internal Tory and Labour machinations.

The UK Parliament was recalled, not as some expected it would be, to deal with the backwater of a Scottish Yes vote to independence, but the predictable act of the UK providing cover for US lead action, yet again, in Iraq. There was dignity and solemnity in the Commons debate, showing that the old battered, discredited chamber can still rise to the occasion – but Norway (1940), Suez (1956) or the Falklands (1982) debate this clearly wasn’t.

In Scotland, for many the campaign has not stopped. There is the huge increase in SNP membership (from just over 25,000 on September 18th to more than 72,000), along with proportionately huge increases in both the Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists. There is the cycle of protests and rallies, some on the ‘rigged’ or ‘stolen’ referendum and demanding an ‘independent’ recount, some on the issue of BBC bias, and others on the general cause of independence.

There is understandable motivation and drive behind this ferment. Scotland has just gone through something seismic, which we are still coming to terms with, which has shifted the parameters of debate, and which people are still digesting. Plus there is the pull of the camaraderie and belonging which the referendum aided for a whole spectrum of people, which many wish to not let go of. Read the rest of this entry »