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Is it time to think of independence for London?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 24th 2017

Every day in so many ways the UK becomes more obviously divided and fragmented. The current UK general election campaign showcases this – with the absence of any real national UK politics beyond the theatre of Westminster with instead numerous national and sub-national debates.

There are, along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, several different Englands. And then there is the special case of London. As the capital of England and the UK, London is an island apart from the rest of us. It is a world city, a global magnet and an international force – economically, socially, culturally.

I spent the last weekend in London with friends. Experiencing the city is to reflect on its dynamism and variety, but also on how utterly different it is from the rest of the country. And this difference increasingly matters – both for how London sees itself and the rest of us, and obviously for the non-London population of the UK.

London is one of the drivers of the UK economy. The Greater London area contains over 8.6 million people – 12.5% of the UK population – while making up 22% of UK GDP. Its wealth dominates the UK economy. Inner London’s GDP per person in 2010 was 328% the EU average, compared to 70% in west Wales – the biggest gap in any EU state. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry seems to be the hardest word in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 17th 2017

Power and privilege seldom likes to have to openly reflect on its place in front of others.

Instead, power likes to present its position as a natural state of affairs – to just be, manifesting and imbuing a sense of its own importance. This is how power exerts and expresses itself, from the City of London to senior bankers and the forces of international capitalism.

The same is true of Scotland and in recent years this has been aided by, in significant areas, power being in flux, challenged and even in crisis. This has in places forced it to openly talk about itself and hence its position. Examples of this include Royal Bank of Scotland after the crash, the Catholic Church and its serial scandals, or the implosion of CBI Scotland in the indyref.

Across a number of public institutions a common pattern can be observed about the way power and privilege operate when they are challenged. The three different examples chosen to illustrate this are one traditional force which imploded (Glasgow Rangers FC), one body which has played a central role in society (BBC Scotland), and another which has relatively recently become one of Scotland’s dominant institutions (the SNP). Read the rest of this entry »

 The Winner Doesn’t Take It All: Phoney War or the Beginning of a New Era?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 10th 2017

Scotland’s permanent political campaign continued last week with the local elections. These were important for who runs Scotland’s 32 councils, local services and what passes for the remnants of local government, after decades of centralisation under Labour, Tories and SNP. But the stakes were higher than usual with the impending UK general election.

Everybody could claim some spoils. The SNP ‘won’ – finishing with most votes and seats. The Tories made significant gains in votes and seats. Labour while enduring a kicking showed glimmers of life. The Lib Dems had some local successes and the Greens increased their footholds in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Yet the campaign hype and its aftermath distorted the main political actors and their cheerleaders. The Daily Mail and Daily Express could hardly contain their excitement at Tory gains and evidence of Ruth-mania. Many Tories couldn’t stop getting things out of proportion with David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, tweeting that ‘There is only one winner today’, inviting much ridicule and parody. Read the rest of this entry »

‘When I hear the word Scotland I want to say: ‘Shut the Fuck Up’’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 3rd 2017

‘When I hear the word Scotland, I want to say: ‘Shut the Fuck Up.’’ These were the emotive words someone said at a public event in Newcastle I spoke at exactly one year to the day after the 2014 indyref.

They undoubtedly voiced the views of a part of the country – by that I mean a part of England. But at the same time their anger and loss of patience taps into something that is clearly going on in present day Scotland.

The English part is the more easy to surmise. England has had an awful lot of Scotland in recent years. There was the indyref, the 2015 UK general election, the SNP 56, and then the after affects of Brexit.

The tone of the SNP 56 has had lots of shades and positives, but can often come over, particularly for those outwith Scotland, with a sense of Scottish exceptionalism, conceit and sense of its own moral superiority. This translates into a lack of awareness of impact that can alienate those outside Scotland, not all of whom are the SNP’s natural enemies. Read the rest of this entry »

Anniversaries Galore: Are the best days of Scottish football long behind it?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 26th 2017

The only excitement this year in senior Scottish domestic football has been whether Celtic will go through the season undefeated in league, Scottish Cup and League Cup, and whether a historic treble is possible.

Along with that there are a whole host of memorable anniversaries. The 50th anniversary is coming up – on 25 May – of Celtic becoming the first British team to win the European Cup; while the 50th anniversary just passed on 15 April of Scotland’s legendary 3-2 victory over then world champions, England, at Wembley. On 4 June is the 40th anniversary of Scotland’s 2-1 defeat of England that involved the infamous invasion and digging up of parts of the pitch. And it has also been the 30th of Dundee United’s march to the UEFA Cup final defeating Barcelona and Borussia Mönchengladbach on the way. Read the rest of this entry »