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Where have all the leaders gone?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 20th 2017

We have a problem with leaders – specifically, a dearth of them in Scotland, the UK and most of the Western world. There is a crisis of authority, trust and legitimacy with, for some, populism, trusting instincts and voicing your inner rage all that is left.

Who do we trust to speak to us, to listen and understand our problems? To offer a guide that points in a direction and takes us there at a speed and consistency that respects anxieties and doubts, and the need to build broad coalitions of support?

Across the West who is there? Angela Merkel does not rate badly as a straight dealing managerialist; whereas Emmanuel Macron has already shown the shallowness of his early promise. In the US, aside from the car crush of the Trump Presidency, Hillary Clinton has just published her memoirs underlining her political weaknesses that contributed to why she lost to the most unpopular Presidential candidate in decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty years on maybe it is time to move on from devolution

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 13th 2017

Twenty years ago this week Scotland held a referendum and voted decisively for a Scottish Parliament and for it to have tax-raising powers. This anniversary provides an opportunity to look back and assess what the last twenty years has meant – measuring it against expectations, and the state of the nation.

It has also provided an excuse for some elements in the mainstream media to dust down the insults and attempt to trash the reputation of the Scottish Parliament and the devolution years.

The ‘Scottish Daily Express’ front page declared emphatically ‘Devolution ‘a waste of time’: Life no better for Scots, says poll’. If that wasn’t black and white enough for you, the ‘Scottish Daily Mail’ offered ‘Devolution ‘a failure’’. For the record, neither paper contained the afore-mentioned quotes in the pieces which followed. Jonathan Brocklebank in the ‘Mail’ called the Parliament: ‘The Mother of All White Elephants’, while Jason Allardyce in the ‘Sunday Times Scotland’ stated ‘Devolution has been a dud, say most Scots.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Holyrood has given Scotland independence of the mind

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian, September 11th 2017

Twenty years ago today Scotland voted 3:1 for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. It was clear the old Westminster system of governing Scotland was discredited. Voters recognised it was undemocratic, and produced bad politics and legislation. The case for change had become a consensus – ‘the settled will’ in John Smith’s description – that the referendum merely and validated.

Twenty years later devolution has been a success. There are no serious calls for the Scottish Parliament to be abolished or for a return of direct rule from Westminster. Ruth Davidson and the Tories long ago made their peace. The late Tam Dalyell was the last expression of such a politics.

The Scottish public now views the Scottish Parliament, rather than Westminster, as the most important political institution. Irrespective of formal independence, Scotland already has an informal independence of the mind in how it talks, thinks and acts. Read the rest of this entry »

Can the SNP change and adapt after ten years at the top?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 6th 2017

Scotland has had much media prominence in the last few days. The new Queensferry Crossing opening across the Forth; Scotland voted the most beautiful country in the world according to ‘Rough Guide’ readers, while even the Scottish national football team has managed back-to-back victories and gained itself a chance of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

It is almost as if many Scots have been yearning for some good news stories. Because of late they haven’t seemed to be many from our politics. The Scottish Parliament is back from summer break and the Scottish Government has unveiled its new legislative programme which has some eye-catching measures such as the abolition of the public sector pay cap, setting up a Scottish National Investment Bank and eliminating petrol and diesel vehicles by 2032. But after a summer of discontent in the SNP and independence opinion will this it be enough for the Nationalists to regain their political momentum? Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish Labour after Dugdale and what comes next?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 30th 2017

Scottish Labour used to offer certainty. It had its differences and divisions, but it was in the business of running Scotland, dominating local government and town halls, and was concerned with administration, holding office and doing practical things.

That seems a long time ago. Where did it all go wrong for Scottish Labour? The resignation of Kezia Dugdale means the party has gone through a staggering eight leaders in eighteen years, and will by the end of this year have a ninth.

Scottish Labour’s neverending crisis continues when things are looking up for the British party. Corbyn’s June election recovery made all of this more likely as Dugdale was on record as not supporting Corbyn in both his victorious leadership contests and many of Corbyn’s supporters haven’t forgotten or forgiven this.

British Labour are now making the political weather. The June election and rise in the party’s vote and seats, depriving the Tories of their majority and confidence, has given Corbyn a sense of belief. It has been an amazing transformation, for pre-June Corbyn was widely treated by the media with scorn and condescension. Suddenly such people are having to take him and the prospect of a Labour Government seriously. Read the rest of this entry »