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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Winston Churchill: The Man, the Myth, 1940 and Who can speak for Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 16th 2018

Winston Churchill is everywhere at the moment. It is as if there are only two narratives about Britain’s past: the Second World War and dramas about people of privilege, class and money.

The Churchill industry can cover both strands, and for some his is the last uncontested great story of Britain. To others he is the last statesman who unreservedly represented the moral case for Britain; whereas for many on the left he has long been a problem figure. And all of this, while clearly about our past and the dark days of 1940, is also about the storm clouds gathering today – from Brexit to the widespread cynicism in politicians and institutions.

In the last year Churchill was portrayed in the film of the same name by Brian Cox, the peacetime Churchill featured in Netflix’s ‘The Crown’, and most recently he was played by Gary Oldman in ‘Darkest Hour’. The latter is the latest, concentrating on that watershed period in the Second World War in May 1940 where the Chamberlain Government totters and then collapses, Churchill becomes Prime Minister, and the War Cabinet debates whether to continue the war effort or to seek out peace terms. Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit is turning Britain upside down – and Scotland has a chance to say No

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian Comment, January 15th 2018

Brexit has turned British politics and Britain itself upside down. But to the UK Government and Westminster political classes it is business as usual on the home front as far as Brexit and everything else is concerned.

Not for them that Brexit is nearly entirely an English revolt (with Welsh acquiescence), or that Scotland and Northern Ireland are being dragged along against majority sentiment in their territories.

Today the Scottish Government published its latest paper on Brexit, ‘Scotland’s Place in Europe: People, Jobs and Investment’ which estimates that a hard Brexit would cost the Scottish economy £12.7bn a year by 2030, representing £2,300 per year for every person in Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon spoke in her typical, no nonsense manner at its launch. But while Sturgeon is consistently impressive, she has to deal with inconvenient realities. Namely, that the UK Government have consistently marginalised Scotland in the Brexit process. Read the rest of this entry »

The World in 2018: Trump, Brexit, Britain and the Scottish Debate

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 10th 2018

The New Year is always a time for reflection. I spent the Christmas and New Year break in the United States, providing an opportunity for reflection and a different take on the world.

Two and a half weeks in an American urban setting, even in one of the wealthiest and most creative clusters in the country around Boston and Cambridge, showcases what works and what doesn’t. Conspicuous wealth sits side-by-side crumbling infrastructure and poverty personified by the MBTA train system that looks like it last had serious investment in the 1950s or 1960s.

The American media have an understandable obsession with Trump – at the moment along with extreme weather. Britain is only visible through Brexit and the latest Royal wedding. One well-stocked secondhand bookshop for example had a large number of books in its British section, but on closer examination more than half were on the royals.

Brexit fascinates the Americans and gets some coverage, but isn’t really understood. Scotland is an afterthought at best, and often confused with Ireland. The only media mention of Scotland in the States during the holidays was the Cameron House Hotel fire by Loch Lomond. This shows that disasters and even mini-disasters can have global reach – as the 2014 Glasgow School of Art fire achieved, or in a different kind of implosion, that of Rangers FC. Read the rest of this entry »

My Favourite Music of the Year: 2017

December 19th 2017

NEW ALBUMS

  1. The Visitor – Neil Young and Promise of the Real

Neil Young’s roving and rocking spirit look at the America of today. Hit and miss in places – but some hard rock and roll such as opener ‘Already Great’.

  1. Dark Matter – Randy Newman

Newman in typical sardonic form with his first album in nearly a decade and trademark laidback musical style and acerbic lyrics, ‘Putin’ being one of the best.

  1. Damn – Kendrick Lamar

Not as stellar and pathbreaking as ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ from 2015 but this is R ‘n’ B with personal reflection and social conscience.

  1. How the West Was Won – Peter Perrett

The uplifting music story of the year – once singer of new wave legends The Only Ones gets his life in order and returns with great tunes, lyrics and guitars.

  1. Soul of a Woman – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings

Jones made it as a star in her 40s and her soul sound gave Amy Winehouse her ‘Back in Black vibe. Sadly she died in 2016 and this is her last album filled with the spirit and passionate vocals she was known for. Read the rest of this entry »

MY FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2017

December 15th 2017

Here is a selection of my books of the year. By its nature, this is subjective – made up of books I have read, enjoyed and been impressed by, and isn’t thus an attempt to comprehensively cover every subject. While the vast majority of books listed were published this year, there are a few from late 2016, and a couple published before then.

Scotland: My Favourite Books of the Year

James Robertson, Michael Marra: Arrest This Moment, Big Sky Press

This is a beautifully produced book on a precious talent – musician and artist Michael Marra. Robertson makes this book about Marra on every page, and about something more – the creative muse, modern culture and contemporary Scotland.

Diane M. Watters, St. Peter’s, Cardross: Birth, Death and Renewal, Historic Environment Scotland

A stunning testimony, in text and photograph, to St. Peter’s Seminary by Cardross. The book covers post-war modernism, the hopes behind building St. Peter’s and what went wrong – resulting in the present ruin that the arts organisation NVA hope to make into a space for cultural and public discussion. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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