Glasgow’s Success is Key to Scotland’s Success
Sunday Mail, May 29th 2016
Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city. It may only contain 606,340 people in its council boundaries, but the Greater Glasgow conurbation is double that – at 1.2 million.
Glasgow is one of the drivers of the Scottish economy and society: a place of great wealth, enterprise, jobs and culture. But it is also characterised by staggering degrees and levels of poverty, inequality and disadvantage. This isn’t anything remotely new and has been the case since the city experienced rapid industrialisation from the early 1800s, but it limits the city and the potential of its inhabitants.
Take the debate on public health – centred around what has become known as ‘the Glasgow effect’. This shows that, allowing for poverty and material circumstances, the city’s health record is much worse than elsewhere in Scotland – and to comparable cities like Liverpool and Manchester. Read the rest of this entry »
Why Does Football Matter So Much? And is it about something else?
Scottish Review, May 25th 2016
Football saturates Scotland. It fills numerous conversations and dominates spaces, both public and private – and affects attitudes, thoughts and emotions. According to some measures Scotland is the most football mad part of Europe; in others, it comes third behind Iceland and Cyprus.
This isn’t just an essay about football – so if you aren’t a football fan, don’t stop reading as this affects you. If you are a football fan – and a partisan follower – let me be clear. I do not hate or want to denigrate any of Scotland’s football clubs, Rangers and Celtic included, while I do not see any club as beyond redemption or above reproach.
The Scottish Cup Final last Saturday between Hibs and Rangers was a captivating game of football. Hibs dramatically won the Scottish Cup for the first time in 114 years and then all hell broke loose. Read the rest of this entry »
What’s Missing from the European Referendum?
Sunday Mail, May 22nd 2016
As memory of the Scottish campaign fades, along comes another one: the European referendum. It is like the deregulated chaos of buses – first none, then a stampede!
We now have regular referendums. Scotland has had three, as has Wales, Northern Ireland two, and this is the third UK-wide vote. When they were first mooted in the 1970s they were called, particularly by MPs, ‘alien’, ‘unBritish’, ‘undermining of parliamentary sovereignty’, and the sort of things dictatorships do.
Since then the referendum has slowly become part of the Scottish and British constitutional furniture. There is even now an agreed set of rules in the form of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 that allows for official ‘designated’ sides, and tries to create an equal playing field in donations and spending in the short campaign.
This phenomenon is not just British, but evident across Europe and US. There are many reasons for this. There is the decline in political elites, fall in deference, spread of communications, and emergence of issues such as constitutional arrangements, environment and ethical concerns, which transcend old left-right and class divisions. Read the rest of this entry »
Have We Passed Peak SNP? After the Three Dreams of Scottish Nationalism
Scottish Review, May 18th 2016
Nearly fifty years ago Scotland embarked on a new political journey – one defined by the politics of Scottish nationalism, the electoral challenge of the SNP, and the debate on self-government and how to best express Scotland’s collective interests.
It has been a bumpy ride, involving controversies, incidents, moments of elation and disappointment, but while history is never tidy and linear, Scotland post-Winnie Ewing winning Hamilton in November 1967 was never the same. That much is uncontroversial. There have been subsequently three distinctive waves of SNP support: 1967-74, 1988-92, and then, post-devolution, and in particular since 2007. Each phase has been deeper and more transformative; first, challenging and then supplanting the Tories as the main opposition to Labour, then marginalising Labour, and becoming the leading party of the country.
At the onset of this the writer Tom Nairn wrote an essay, ‘Three Dreams of Scottish Nationalism’ which has often been cited, but seldom seriously analysed. Nairn foresaw three distinct dreams of Scotland historically: Reformation, romanticism, and bourgeois nationalism, each of which in its dream offered the prospect of being damned or saved, redemption or failure, wholeness and salvation or fragmentation and failure.
It is classic early Nairn from which came the famous quotes ‘Scotland will be reborn the day the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post’ and ‘there is no Stalinist like a Scottish Stalinist’ – both of which contain poetry and over-statement. Beyond this, allowing for early Nairn’s doubts about the potential of Scottish independence, much of his critique has remained constant and stands the test of time. Read the rest of this entry »
An Open Letter to the SNP
Sunday Mail, May 15th 2016
Congratulations on last week’s historic third term. It was well deserved. The party has rightly established a reputation for competence. Nicola Sturgeon is popular and liked; none of the opposition come near.
The SNP has contributed enormously to public life. It is seen as standing up for Scotland’s interests and after decades of Labour cronyism has been a new broom.
This is probably as good as it gets. For the good of the country, the party and independence, it needs to understand the nature of its victory and mandate.
1. Nicola Sturgeon said the election gave her ‘a clear and unequivocal mandate’. That’s not accurate, and sets the wrong tone when the public have just elected a minority SNP administration.
2. There is now an established pattern emerging of SNP over-reach seen in the three peaks of the indyref, 2015 election and this year. The SNP doesn’t seem to know how to deal with huge success (2015), slight reverses (this year) and losing (indyref). That’s a worrying pattern. Read the rest of this entry »