Flags and Stramashs in Scotland’s Summer of Independence

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 24th 2016

A couple of weeks ago I was involved in one of the many online conversations about politics that now characterise Scotland. Afterwards the animated chat in the pub turned to the previous day’s pro-independence march in Glasgow.

Saltires had been there in plenty – and one person, perhaps more fully signed up to independence than the others, asked ‘Why is Scotland the only place in the world where people are told off for flying their flag?’ This was met by myself and others with incredulity, as we pointed out that all over the world flags are problematic, and not one national flag is completely uncontested.

This amiable conversation concluded with two of us saying in near-unison words to the effect: ‘We don’t want to waste time on these sorts of discussions. If we were to waste time on this sort of thing, rather than substance, we would consider voting No next time.’ Read the rest of this entry »

What does the British Summer of Olympic Success mean?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 21st 2016

Rio 2016 has made the headlines. Before the games, there was the backstory of the Brazilian lack of preparation, corruption and wasting of billions in a country without basic sanitation and health facilities for millions of its population.

As the games got underway, one of the big stories became that of British success – as medal after medal was won, with Team GB achieving second place in the medals table ahead of the Chinese and in its final tally exceeding the number of medals won four years previously in London 2012 (65 then; 67 now).

The tales of success – Jason Kenny and Laura Trott at cycling, Andy Murray at tennis, medals in dressage and swimming, have captivated a nation and even provide a hint of nostalgia by being on the BBC with no TV adverts. Whereas in 2012 £264 million of funding worked out at £4,061,538 million a medal, in Rio £355 million of funding produced £5,298,507.46 per medal. Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with Britain and Why It Can’t Be Tidily Put Back Together

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 14th 2016

Britain throughout its history has had a reputation for stability and security.

This after all was one of the main clarion calls in the indyref and, more recently, the Brexit vote, but this has always been a bit of a myth and is now increasingly fictitious.

In the European referendum and its aftermath, much of the discussion that occurred repeatedly – supposedly about the country, its challenges and future – wasn’t actually about the UK, but instead about England.

This has become the way the country is presented by its elites. One glaring example of this was the previous week’s BBC post-vote analysis, ‘Brexit: The Battle for Britain’ which had lots to commend it. Politicians were candid, telling stories about decisions – and about each other. Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP’s Depute Leadership Contest could aid a more honest version of independence and post-Brexit politics

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 7th 2016

The SNP is about to have a leadership election. A depute leader contest.

Given the SNP is in government in Holyrood – with 63 out of 129 MSPs – and last year won 56 out of 59 Westminster seats, this will have some impact.

Rarely do Deputy Leaders count in parties. Labour has had one since 1922 and none were that important: John Prescott didn’t restrain Blair, and Tom Watson can’t show Corbyn the door. Tories don’t have a formal deputy leader, but often an informal one, when the post of Deputy PM is created – held under Thatcher and Major by Willie Whitelaw, Geoffrey Howe and Michael Heseltine. Whitelaw did have a say, and was a restraint on Thatcher.

The SNP is a bit different. There is still a culture of collective leadership although it is weakening. The party is away to elect its 18th depute – five of those who previously held the role going on to become leader – including the last three, Salmond pre-1990, John Swinney, and Nicola Sturgeon (as well as Gordon Wilson and Billy Wolfe before them). Read the rest of this entry »

The Named Persons legislation and who stands up for liberty in Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, July 31st 2016

The summer of 2016 is proving dramatic and historic. Brexit, David Cameron resignation as PM, Theresa May becoming the new PM, Jeremy Corbyn’s travails.

That’s just Britain. Across the world there is Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, violent and terrorist attacks in Germany and France, Putin flexing his muscles, while a belligerent China shows its power in the South China Sea.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Government has been playing an astute game on Brexit. This week Nicola Sturgeon spoke in a way no pro-European UK politician has yet managed. She was empathic, thoughtful, and forward-looking, while calmly making the case that this mess and crisis is not of Scotland’s making.

It then comes as a bit of a bolt and bringing back down to earth that the UK Supreme Court found against the Scottish Government on the Named Persons Act – which would appoint for every child a named person to look after their wellbeing – finding it not unlawful in principle, but in practice, and in particular, in terms of data sharing between public agencies. Read the rest of this entry »