Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
Nigel Farage, the Scottish Debate and the Future of Europe
Open Democracy, May 19th 2013
This is an age of uncertainty, crisis and doubt. The UK is experiencing multiple crises: political, constitutional and economic, of the UK in Europe and of Europe itself as an idea and project. And underneath all of this is a deep-seated Western fear, of loss of confidence in Western modernity and anxiety about the future.
The lack of sureness now being displayed in Britain’s political elites is one manifestation, as is the rise of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. The Westminster village has been talking of little else since UKIP burst through in the English local elections winning 23% of the vote, humiliating the mainstream parties.
Cut then this week to the beautiful setting of Edinburgh’s High Street, its castle at one end, Holyrood Palace at the other, tartan tourist tat in between. This was the improbable setting for Nigel Farage’s northern sojourn and face off with Radical Independence supporters.
Insults flew back and forth; the protestors called Farage ‘racist scum’; he retorted by calling them ‘fascist scum’ and then attempted to taint the broad church of Scottish nationalism and the SNP by claiming the former had a ‘fascist side’; the next day in a combative interview on ‘BBC Radio Scotland’ Farage accused the interviewer David Miller of the same ‘hatred’ as the protestors and hung up (1). Read the rest of this entry »
The Framing of the Scottish Independence Debate: A Tale of Two Referenda
Bella Caledonia, May 15th 2013
Two independence campaigns are now running in the UK: one on Scottish independence; the other which has become more public in the last week, on the UK’s possible exit from the European Union. Strangely they operate in near complete isolation of each other, with the Euro referendum being talked about as if we still lived in the high days of untrammelled Westminster parliamentary sovereignty.
In the last week, the front page of the Scottish edition of The Times reported a fall in support for Scottish independence of 3% as, ‘’Yes’ vote hits trouble as support crumbles’ (May 9th 2013). The same week it began its campaign for the UK to embark on EU withdrawal, lining up a chorus line of Tory grandees to declare their support for exit; successive front pages declared, ‘Lawson: It’s time to quit EU’ (May 7th 2013) and ‘Voters tell Cameron to cut Europe down to size’ (May 8th 2013); and were followed by Michael Portillo coming out of support of withdrawal, ‘We don’t share Europe’s vision. So I want out’ (May 9th 2013). The front page of the Scottish edition on the day of the Lawson announcement also included a headline stating, ‘Independent Scotland may struggle to keep lights on’ (May 7th 2013).
One has the language of ‘separatism’, ‘separation’ and is filled with risk and negativity; the other the language of ‘a new relationship’, ‘renegotiation’ and greater choice and flexibility; the first about Scottish independence, the second British withdrawal from the EU. When I asked Angus Macleod, editor of The Times Scottish edition why he used pejorative language on Scotland in one of the pieces cited above he answered, ‘Independence is in in the intro and elsewhere. Separation is used for variety. It’s called journalism’ (twitter, May 9th 2013). Read the rest of this entry »
The Fall of BBC’s ‘Sportscene’ and Why It Matters
Scottish Review, April 18th 2013
Scottish football matters to lots of us. Its images and halcyon images define many of our lives – the Lisbon Lions in 67, Rangers in Barcelona in 72, Aberdeen in Gothenburg in 83, the Jim Baxter keepie-up and the Archie Gemmell run.
When you think of English football one of the many images that might spring to mind is ‘Match of the Day’ and this may include its current opening credits. You would not say the same of the current BBC Scotland version of ‘Sportscene’.
Once upon a time ‘Sportscene’ and STV’s ‘Scotsport’ were part of our national fabric. There was Archie Macpherson anchoring one and Arthur Montford the other. They became national icons, figures of respect, learnedness and even in some strange way, of a Scottish sense of male style. Read the rest of this entry »
Games with Shadows: Living in Thatcher’s Scotland
Open Democracy, April 10th 2013
We live in Thatcher’s Britain, yet that statement is obvious, contentious and deeply divisive. And this is all the more true of Thatcher north of the border.
Thatcher is simultaneously both history and present day. You can hear this in the differing accounts on TV and radio; with conservative figures claiming she remade the modern world from knocking down the Berlin Wall and freeing Eastern Europe, to preventing a future ‘socialist Britain’; while elements of the left wail in pain and agony at how events have turned out and their inability to come to terms with the country and politics she created.
We live in an age as much shaped by Thatcher as the previous political era: the so-called ‘post-war consensus’, a phrase seldom used in that era, and only invoked at its fag end. The date of Thatcher entering office, 1979, is exactly halfway between 1945 and today. Therefore, we are 34 years from Thatcher’s first victory; and 34 years from then to Clement Attlee’s historic mandate. And given that there are detailed studies of ‘the post-war consensus’, we should be able to begin to do the same with Thatcherism, but instead we are still arguing over what it means. Read the rest of this entry »
What do we do when we talk (and don’t talk) about Power?
Scottish Review, April 9th 2013
The story of modern Scotland is an obvious one: we are a nation and a community, increasingly defined by these two terms and from this comes our sense of difference and identity.
Beyond that it begins to get complicated and contested; our prevailing account of ourselves is that we are centre-left, egalitarian, inclusive and radical, and the missing word in front of each of these is more; meaning more than England, which for many is the crucial ingredient.
All of the above contain elements of truth but they are also our modern myths, the stories we tell ourselves to understand who we are, which are part-fact, part-fiction, but which make us who we are. And to fully comprehend this we need to try and have some honest, reflective conversations about this, the nature of our public life, and the challenge of power, namely, who has it and who doesn’t, and how we understand it.
Let’s start with power. It is one of the central ingredients that makes the world go round. There are at least three versions of it in modern Scotland: hard power, intermediate power, and soft power. And for some reason we don’t want to talk too much about these in modern Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »