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MY FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2017

December 15th 2017

Here is a selection of my books of the year. By its nature, this is subjective – made up of books I have read, enjoyed and been impressed by, and isn’t thus an attempt to comprehensively cover every subject. While the vast majority of books listed were published this year, there are a few from late 2016, and a couple published before then.

Scotland: My Favourite Books of the Year

James Robertson, Michael Marra: Arrest This Moment, Big Sky Press

This is a beautifully produced book on a precious talent – musician and artist Michael Marra. Robertson makes this book about Marra on every page, and about something more – the creative muse, modern culture and contemporary Scotland.

Diane M. Watters, St. Peter’s, Cardross: Birth, Death and Renewal, Historic Environment Scotland

A stunning testimony, in text and photograph, to St. Peter’s Seminary by Cardross. The book covers post-war modernism, the hopes behind building St. Peter’s and what went wrong – resulting in the present ruin that the arts organisation NVA hope to make into a space for cultural and public discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Marra: The Bard of Dundee and Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 13th 2017

Michael Marra – musician, artist and force for good – was a precious Scottish gem. He was unique in his art but also in his delivery and style; singularly understated, modest and often humble to the extent that at times he hugely underpromoted himself and his work.

It is worthwhile celebrating that the writer James Robertson has contributed his time and intelligence to produce a biography of Marra – ‘Michael Marra: Arrest This Moment’. This is a fascinating book, and important beyond the subject of Marra in addressing music, the creative muse, the role of the artist and culture, and having something to say about his home town (and mine) Dundee – and contemporary Scotland.

Michael Marra was born in Dundee on February 17th 1952, the fourth of five children, and grew up in Lochee, then as now a working class part of the city. After an unhappy time at school and several routine jobs, Michael found his voice as a singer and songwriter. Read the rest of this entry »

Are a ‘liberal elite’ really running Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 6th 2017

Is Scotland run by a ‘liberal junta’ or a ‘social junta’? This might seem a far-fetched notion but this is the charge made by Observer and Herald columnist Kevin McKenna (‘social junta’) and backed up by Iain Macwhirter (‘liberal junta’). I have enormous respect for both Kevin and Iain and value their many contributions to public life, but do think that on this they have got it badly wrong.

The argument put by McKenna in The Observer is that the Scottish Parliament is more focused on areas like tightening the ban on fox hunting, outlawing smacking on kids, and even minimum pricing on alcohol, than waging war on poverty and trying to support and change the lives of the poor.

This is in McKenna’s words ‘further proof of Holyrood’s obsession with the way ordinary people manage their families.’ In sweeping language he disses Scotland’s Parliament as a ‘collection of political confidence-tricksters’ who want to disguise ‘their wholesale betrayal of our poorest communities while blaming it all on the Tories.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Ireland Question is not just about Ireland, but a selective view of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 29th 2017

Brexit has become a constitutional and political clusterfuck – a rolling embarrassment for Britain in a show that is set to run officially at least until 11pm on 29 March 2019, and in all probability for years after.

It is a crash between a right-wing Fantasyland version of Britain (witness Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg) and at the margins, a left-wing British exceptionalist story led by Corbyn which hopes, by keeping quiet, to pick up the pieces, all based on ignorance of history and the hard realities of politics and diplomacy.

Nowhere is the Brexit debacle more clearly evident than in relation to Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the boundary between them that emerges after the UK leaves the EU. This has huge consequences, as the three areas the EU prioritised for initial agreement with the UK are the border, the rights of EU citizens and the monies the UK will pay to leave. This will all come to a head at the EU summit on 14-15 December, with the UK Government’s pursuit of a hard Brexit – leaving the single market and customs union – meaning that the current porous border is under threat. A hard Brexit could lead to a hard border. Read the rest of this entry »

Kezia Dugdale and the Jungle that is the Scottish Labour ‘Family’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 22nd 2017

The big story of the last few days in certain quarters hasn’t been Zimbabwe, allegations of child sexploitation in Govanhill on Glasgow’s Southside, the saving of BiFab, or the election of Richard Leonard as Scottish Labour’s ninth leader. And not even Alex Salmond’s weekly programme on ‘Russia Today’.

Instead our airwaves, papers and social media have been obsessed with news that Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour’s outgoing leader, will appear in the TV reality show ‘I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here’. This entails spending up to three weeks in the Australian jungle doing such purposeful things as eating insects and kangaroo testicles and living in close quarters with reality TV stars – all in the aid of tabloid front covers and higher audiences. And doing this while remaining an elected MSP.

This caused a huge stramash when announced by ‘The Scottish Sun’ on the eve of the latest Scottish Labour contest result. This was seen by some as an act of deliberate sabotage – indicative of Dugdale’s displeasure at how she was treated while leader and being constantly undermined by internal critics. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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