Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
The Problem of Patriotism and the Left
The Scotsman, December 7th 2013
This week Keith Vaz, chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, asked the ‘Guardian’ editor Alan Rusbridger, ‘Do you love your country?’.
This was in relation to the ‘Guardian’s’ publication of some of Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the activities of the US-UK surveillance state. Rusbridger, clearly surprised by the question answered in the affirmative, ‘We are patriots. One of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy and a free press’.
Patriotism, for all the uses and misuses of Dr. Johnson’s quote about it being ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’, has proven a messy battleground. Many on the right in Britain view it unconditionally, while large parts of the left see it as reactionary and to be resisted. To add to this many on the right have used it down the years to smear and undermine the left.
Vaz has yet to explain his comments, but even elements of the right-wing press found them hard to defend. The ‘Daily Telegraph’s’ Dan Hodges called it a straightforward ‘definition of McCarthyism’; while the usually pugnaciously right-wing ‘Daily Mail’ Quentin Letts found it an uneasy, uncomfortable use of words. Read the rest of this entry »
The British economic model is bust. Can Scotland be different?
The Scotsman, November 30th 2013
Just over 18 months ago the much-respected journal, ‘The Economist’, turned its attention to Scotland and the independence debate with its famous ‘Skintland’ issue.
Its front cover was deemed offensive by some for the names it gave to imagined towns and areas that emphasised the world of no hope on offer from independence – ‘Grumpians’, ‘Loanlands’, ‘Glasgone’, ‘Edinborrow’ and many more. Inside the magazine’s editorial declared that Scots had to face their decision on independence ‘in the knowledge their country could end up as one of Europe’s vulnerable, marginalised economies’.
Since then quietly and unnoticed ‘The Economist’ has been charting some of the success stories of the Scottish economy. It has noted what is happening in the world of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in an Ernst and Young survey for 2012. London with 22% of UK GDP took 45% of FDI, while Scotland has the highest figures for anywhere apart from London – taking with 8.3% of population, 16.1% of FDI. Read the rest of this entry »
A Different Scotland is Happening
Gerry Hassan and James Mitchell
Scottish Review, November 27th 2013
Many words will be written this week and in the years to come about the independence debate and the publication of the Scottish Government White Paper on independence launched yesterday in Glasgow by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
All of this has come about after negotiations between the UK and Scottish Governments. They agreed the question to be put to the Scottish people, about who could vote and the rules of the referendum. The two Governments and campaign organisations associated with each side seek to define the terms of the debate: independence vs. separatism; hope vs. fear; change vs. continuity.
There is nothing unusual in this. Elections and referendums in liberal democracies are about giving the public an authoritative voice on pre-determined choices.
As a device for consulting the people, the referendum is now more commonly used in the UK than the past. It has value in ensuring that a decision carries the legitimising power of public support, as happened in the 1997 devolution vote. But referendums have their limitations. They encourage highly adversarial politics and limit choices to what is on offer at the ballot box, even if the public might prefer something else. These features can limit public involvement to being spectators. Read the rest of this entry »
The crisis of Britain’s institutions is one of the labour movement too
The Scotsman, November 23rd 2013
One of the defining characteristics of the Labour Party through the ages has been its moral dimension – its indignation at the inequities and injustices of a rotten, economically and socially divisive capitalist system.
It has critiqued this via its early socialist, radical and religious roots – more Methodist than Marx, more the Bible and ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’ than ‘Das Capital’.
As politics and society have changed – the post-war consensus, Thatcher, New Labour – these strands have weakened but remained. There was a hope amongst some that post-Blair and Brown Labour would recover its core principles and purpose and make the case against an economic, social and political system which has clearly lost its way.
Events have proven to be a bit trickier than that. The crisis of British capitalism, its traditional establishment and the world of clubland and ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ are deep rooted. The forces of new capitalism and its brash elites in the City, hedge funds and outsourcers, has proven even more anti-social, selfish and brutal than the old one. Read the rest of this entry »
History in the Making: The Battle for Scotland’s Future
National Collective, November 20th 2013
The campaign on Scottish independence has reached new levels – a battle of competing specialist documents – firstly, there has been an Institute for Fiscal Studies report, matched by a Scottish Government paper on the economic independence, and next week the much anticipated White Paper on Scottish independence.
The latter is a milestone in the pro-independence debate. Whatever its content, style and persuasiveness things will never quite be the same again. A devolved administration in part of the UK lays out the case for independence and for formally ending the 300 year old union which has bound Scotland and England together.
Yet beneath these is a contest between two competing technocratic versions of the world, shaped by faith in conventional economic growth models which are globally growing more threadbare and discredited by the day. This is the rationalist mindset, illustrating by the actions of both campaigns the limits of such an approach and politics.
Then there is the mainstream media. The IFS report was greeted by what can only be called near-hysteria by some of the pro-union newspapers. The Scottish edition of ‘the Daily Mail’ shouted ‘BLACK HOLE: Report exposes SNP economic gap: They’ll have to raise income tax or slash spending’ on its front page; the ‘Daily Telegraph’ that ‘Separation would deal £6bn blow, impartial study finds’. We have had two and a half years of this one-sided Pathe News style propaganda and clearly it is only going in one direction: towards a date with Armageddon on September 18th 2014. Read the rest of this entry »