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Is Scotland really a social democratic country?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 18th 2017

At last week’s SNP conference in the middle of her keynote speech, Nicola Sturgeon asked: ‘What kind of country do we want to be?’ She wasn’t expecting an answer, and seemed surprised when a member of the party faithful shouted out ‘an independent one.’

Behind Sturgeon’s non-question is the belief in Scottish difference, the efficacy of our values, and the link of both of these to the idea of Scotland as a social democratic country. Thus, around the conference chatter and commentary, Lesley Riddoch on Sky News spoke of ‘a social democratic consensus’ in Scotland, while Iain Macwhirter on the BBC talked of ‘a social democratic politics.’

Scotland as a land of social democracy has become the lexicon of our politics. It has accelerated under devolution, contributing to the mood music of the political environment and institutions. This has become even more pronounced under SNP rule, for obvious reasons, as the difference between Scotland and England politically is emphasised – Scotland social democratic good; England neo-liberal bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this the end game for Theresa May and Tory Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 11th 2017

The British Conservatives have for most of their history been an impressively successful political force, winning elections and forming the UK government on its own or in coalition for two-thirds of the 20th and 21st centuries.

It then behooves the rest of us to try and understand the Conservative Party – what motivates its thinking, actions and ethos. And this matters even more when they are engulfed in infighting and faction fighting, in what looks like the lingering death rites of Theresa May’s premiership.

Trying to understand Tories is beyond some. From Nye Bevan’s ‘Tories are lower than vermin’ 1948 speech (which was reputed to have lost Labour half a million votes in the subsequent 1950 election), to the battle cry of many a protest of ‘Tory scum’, there is a long left-wing tradition of demonising Tories as one dimensional villains.

There is even a vogue in anti-Toryism in the popularity of ‘Never Kissed a Tory’ t-shirts and mugs, and the sentiment expressed by Labour MP Laura Pidcock who said she could not have a Tory as a friend because they represented ‘the enemy.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish Independence in the Age of Disruption: Big Questions for the SNP, Labour and Tories

Gerry Hassan

LSE Politics Blog, October 9th 2017

Scottish politics are in a strange place at the moment – not one of calm, but of transition with the future uncertain. After several years of high-octane politics, and the twin peaks of disruption of the 2014 indyref and 2016 Brexit vote, all of Scotland’s main political parties have some adjusting to do.

The SNP, ten years in office, are still trying to digest the reverse of the 2017 UK election; the Tories how to continue their new found popularity; and Labour have another leadership contest to choose their ninth leader in the devolution era. The Lib Dems, despite once being crucial coalition partners with Labour in Scotland, and the Scottish Greens, whose vital pro-independence votes in the Scottish Parliament the SNP need for a majority, both struggle to make an impact.

The SNP meet at their autumn conference in Glasgow in unsettled mood. They are more unsure of themselves than a year ago; less confident that the forces of history are behind them and will carry all before it leading to independence. Ten years into office, the party first went up in popularity – its narrow win in 2007 followed by a landslide in 2011 in devolved elections, then by the tsunami of the SNP 56 in 2015. It has been slowly down since, while still remaining by far Scotland’s leading party – and government. Read the rest of this entry »

Catalonia and Scotland are very different: The complex struggle for self-determination

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 4th 2017

There are many reasons to be thankful for living in Scotland. This came home to roost in the last week with the Catalan referendum, the experience of the Iraqi Kurds voting on independence, and even, more dramatically, the tragic events in the US when Las Vegas witnessed yet another mass killing and carnage.

Scotland is a prosperous and peaceful country. Unlike Catalonia we were able to have an independence referendum – which everyone agreed to, participated in, and accepted who won and who lost.

Central to this was the role of the British Government. For all the ‘othering’ of Britain and the British state – which happens in pro-independence opinion – from its pursuit of inequality, war on the poor and unraveling of the welfare state, to its many military adventures abroad and belief in its role as an international policeman, it acted (in the Scottish example) with an element of insight, intelligence and even wisdom. And we were all the better for it. Read the rest of this entry »

Politics is becoming a battle of ideas again, but the Tories look a spent force

Gerry Hassan

The Herald, October 4th 2017

The Conservative Party love to tell themselves they are one of the most successful parties electorally in the Western world. Chancellor Philip Hammond was giving Tories this reassuring message on Monday.

But this conference does not feel like that of a party in good health, spirits or much energy. Instead, despite being in government, it feels like a party lost and almost pre-preparing for opposition.

There is the leadership issue. Theresa May’s lost majority saw her stitch-up a deal with the Democratic Unionists – with them not having to power share in Northern Ireland, because they can do so with the Tories. Why does either need to bother with democracy, when they can short circuit the verdict of voters? Read the rest of this entry »