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Alex Salmond, Showbiz and whatever happened to the politics of optimism?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 16th 2017

All political leaders have a certain limited shelf life. If they are very successful and lucky they win elections, hold power and make decisions, but the public eventually grow tired and wary of their constant public presence.

The twilight years and long goodbyes of the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ted Heath and his thirty year grudge with Thatcher, are all examples of how difficult many find the transition. Thatcher, whatever your political views of her, won three elections in a row, and after her party overthrew her, pined for the call to return. Blair, despite his millions and acclaim from various despots, yearns for domestic political influence and has, until the June election, been making plans for a new pro-EU centrist party – which might now be off or still on.

The SNP and Scottish nationalism has played a huge part in our recent history and central to this has been Alex Salmond who led the party over two periods and twenty years: 1990-2000 and 2004 and 2014.

There are numerous achievements to his leadership in changing the SNP and Scotland permanently. First, he professionalised how the SNP conducted itself and politics, bringing a discipline and self-denying ordinance. The SNP became a party which looked outward and to win – a shift from the 1980s inward obsessions (and also with Scottish Labour’s lack of extrovert interest in winning floating voters at the time). Read the rest of this entry »

From Peak Nat to Pique Nat: Is Alex Salmond becoming a problem for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP?

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian Comment, August 15th 2017

Alex Salmond is one of the big beasts not just of Scottish, but British politics and the defining figure of modern Scottish nationalism and the SNP.

He has been leader of the SNP for a total of twenty years (1990-2000; 2004-2014), First Minister of Scotland for seven years, and in 2014 took the SNP closer than any of its opponents thought possible to the party’s ultimate goal of independence.

Yet he now finds himself bereft of a major public role, after losing the referendum and standing down as First Minister, and subsequently losing his Westminster Gordon seat to Tory Colin Clark. Read the rest of this entry »

A Summer of Discontent in Scotland’s Independence Movement

Gerry Hassan

Sceptical Scot, August 9th 2017

It isn’t a happy time for the Scottish independence movement. To some it seems like the silly season; to others a summer of discontent. But clearly something is going on which matters for the state of Scottish politics and the cause of independence.

The context is important. The SNP reverse in the 2017 election came as an unwelcome shock to many independence supporters. It has thrown many post-2014 assumptions into the air concerning the inevitability of another independence referendum, its timing and result.

The differences have been telling. Pro-independence blogger Wings over Scotland – aka Stuart Campbell – has said he will take Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale to court for defamation after she said remarks of his were homophobic. Green MSP Ross Greer said ‘The National’s’ front covers were ‘cringe-inducing’, and criticised the ‘bile’ of part of the independence movement. One example he cited was the personal abuse Cat Boyd faced following the revelation she voted Labour in the June election. Read the rest of this entry »

A Tale of Two City Centres: Edinburgh and Glasgow

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 9th 2017

Summer, Scotland 2017. Edinburgh comes alive and Glasgow has the start of the football season to look forward too. A tale of two cities and two very different experiences.

Edinburgh Festival Time. In the immediate weeks before hundreds of thousands of self-confessed culture vultures descend on the city it was announced that security barriers would go up in the city centre around the Royal Mile.

There was little warning, debate or ensuing controversy. A declaration was made and within days the barriers – which include high security gates, metal portals and concrete blocks – were erected to prevent vehicles hitting pedestrians. They even have a fancy sounding name – the National Barrier Asset (NBA) – and are deployed on request from, and paid for by, the UK Government. There was next to no comment let alone any queries or opposition. That seems somewhat noteworthy. Read the rest of this entry »

The High Road and the Low Road of Scottish debate and politics

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 2nd 2017

These are serious and dangerous times across the globe. There is the instability and gangland nature of the Trump administration, its ‘America First’ isolationism, disparaging of traditional allies, and open admiration for autocrats such as Putin and Erdoğan.

Then there is the threat of North Korea and its kleptocratic notionally Communist regime and its nuclear and aggressive ambitions which have so far found the international community wanting. And on a less dramatic scale, but no less important for the UK and Europe, there are the perils of Brexit, as Britain sleepwalks its way out of the EU without an agreed plan or national consensus.

Despite the above the Scottish debate seems, for many, to swing along in isolation and even in places in blithe ignorance of bigger issues at play across the planet. All that matters for some is winning the Scottish debate and defeating and even diminishing their opponents on the constitutional question. This is an unhealthy state of affairs for Scotland, and one made more sad and misguided by the scale of challenges facing us internationally. Read the rest of this entry »