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 »

Tom Devine, the Indy Ref and the Myths of Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 20th 2014

The independence referendum to some is their lifeblood; to others it is a distraction; but what it inarguably has done is to reveal much about what Scotland is, thinks and feels.

Something interesting happened this week when respected historian Tom Devine came out for independence. His reasoning was, he said in an interview in ‘The Observer’ that, ‘It is the Scots who have succeeded most in preserving the British idea of fairness and compassion in terms of state support and intervention’.

The above says many things about Scotland and Britain. The British idea of ‘fairness’ is close to a foundation story: from the British gentlemanly code of conduct which was meant to inform the establishment, to the Whig view of history, and Empire as a supposed civilizing force for good the world over. It was also meant to have informed, once the plebs proved rebellious, the basis for the post-war welfare state.

Alongside this is the idea of a Scottish expression of the post-1945 British dream that we have somehow remained faithful to, while according to Devine and many others, England has increasingly rejected such values. ‘Fairness and compassion’ are to Devine what characterise modern Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »

The Power and Absence of Doubt in the Nationalist Independence Cause

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 13th 2014

It has not been a great week for the independence cause and for the SNP.

This has been made worse by the self-denial and delusion expressed by a host of independence supporters including parts of the commentariat, the SNP and on-line opinion.

The SNP’s position on currency union, along with EU membership, has for ages been the weak flank of their entire proposition. Thus, it should have been no surprise to anyone when Alistair Darling basically mugged Salmond on the former in last week’s TV debate.

These problems touch on the dominant voice of the independence debate and cause. It is one of certainty, not showing doubt or acknowledging risk, and instead presenting an air of effortless confidence.

This approach does not address many of the realities of independence and much of the modern world: the realities of risk, uncertainty and the virtues of ambiguity and doubt. Read the rest of this entry »

What does it take to be a good man in Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 6th 2014

This is the day after the first gladiatorial debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling – two respectable, rather conventional, men of similar age only divided by the constitutional question.

A large part of the independence debate like significant elements of Scottish public life is defined and shaped by gender and in particular, the behaviour, actions and views of some men.

For decades Scottish politics, at Westminster level, was a male-only zone; as recently as 1979 only one woman Scottish MP was elected. Similarly many of the positions of power in corporate life and boardrooms are male dominated, and by men of a certain narrow disposition in terms of social background, attitudes and interests.

During that period, the public and voluntary sectors in Scotland have more dramatically changed and in so doing in many places look more diverse and representative of society. Indeed, across Scotland in the last 20-30 years there has been an untold story of the increasing feminisation in work, society and of the attitudes and expectations of many men and women. Read the rest of this entry »