Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category
Scotland’s Historic Year and the Zeal of the Missionary Men
Scottish Review, February 12th 2014
This is Scotland’s great date with destiny. The biggest moment in 300 years of history. So how are we doing versus the hype and expectation?
There is an echo chamber in large parts of public life which so far most of the Yes/No debate has amplified. There is the trench warfare of various tribal positions and the numerous one-way conversations with people talking past one another. And just as problematically, in some of the radical shades of opinion and institutional Scotland, there is a potent disconnect from the realities of everyday life, as the former invokes an ‘abstract’ vision, and the latter peddles its latest fads and buzzwords.
There is the reach of conservative Scotland which covers many opinions which would baulk at such a description. This entity can be described as the belief in the status quo of public life, our institutions, arrangements and values. It is comfortable with the current state of professional Scotland – whether it is in law, medicine and health – as well as across the public, private and voluntary sectors. It is firmly of the opinion that we have stopped the market vandals at the border (Tories, outsourcers, consultants); it doesn’t believe that such a thing as professional self-interest and producer capture exists, and has chosen to buy the self-validating stories these groups present about their version of ‘the good society’. Read the rest of this entry »
A weekend of politics, culture and ideas …. And fun!
Friday March 28th-Sunday March 30th
The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool
WHO HAS POWER IN MODERN SCOTLAND?
In association with the Reid Foundation
Friday March 28th
Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart
Scotland after the Crash: The Collapse of RBS
Ian Fraser, author, forthcoming ‘Shredded: The Rise and Fall of RBS’ Read the rest of this entry »
The Battle for Britain and Why Alex Salmond and Independence Has Already Won
Open Democracy, February 7th 2014
This year is witnessing several battles for Britain – of numerous anniversaries of past military triumphs, of the Scottish independence referendum, and the rising tide of the Tory Party’s continued obsession with Europe.
All of these are inter-related in the long-term, almost existential, crisis of what Britain is, what is it for, what kind of society and values it represents, and what kind of future it offers its people. This tumultuous moment we now find ourselves in is one with many layers: economic, social, democratic, and even geo-political (in where Britain aspires to ally itself internationally).
The Scottish independence referendum is fascinating and not a narrow or arid constitutional debate, but influenced by these wider concerns. Revealingly, to most of the London political classes it is seen as marginal, disconnected from their concerns, of episodic interest, and discounted (as they already assess they have won), as noted by Alex Massie in his front cover piece in this week’s ‘Spectator’ (1). Read the rest of this entry »
Radical Nostalgia Scotland and Why We Can’t Go Back to the 1970s
Scottish Review, February 5th 2014
Scotland’s current debate on independence comprises many conversations. They centre on what we were, are and could be, and who did what to whom in the past, and what it means about where we are now, and what we could become in the future.
Many of these aspects were to the fore last week at a Jim Sillars-Alex Neil event to launch Jim’s new book, ‘In Place of Fear II’, under the auspices of ‘Yes Airdrie’. On a cold Thursday night, nearly 300 people attended, a five man only panel (with David Hayman, Pat Kane and the chair), and for two hours of discussion in which every question from the floor was asked by a man. Pat understandably baulked at this, apologised and after his contribution, gave his place to a woman in the audience (who got to make a one minute intervention over the course of the whole evening).
Sillars book is fascinating. It is a real curate’s egg, buzzing with ideas, eclectism and frustration (both about Scotland and personally). Many of the suggestions are a bit dotty (the Robert Burns hospital ship), but many are interesting, and some even heretical (such as self-governing state schools). It is in a deeper sense, a sign of the Scottish times: of a culture which has awoken to the power of the pamphleteer, both old and new, and the floating of numerous vessels and platforms. Read the rest of this entry »
The Empathy Gap: Divided Scotland and the Problem of Fantasyland Britain
Scottish Review, January 29th 2014
It has become part of the commonsense account of the independence campaign that there is a problem with some of the more vociferous, partisan supporters.
In one perspective, frequently spun in the mainstream media, this problem is predominantly, if not exclusively, about the ‘cybernat’ phenomenon. Numerous examples are brought out, from comedian Susan Calman facing invective for comments on independence, to incidents with Chris Hoy and Susan Boyle being verbally abused online.
Yet to pose the ‘cybernats’ as the sole problem, as Labour bigwigs such as George Robertson and George Foulkes do, is fundamentally disingenuous. Another serious issue is the way that mostly Labour figures describe independence and the SNP. Alistair Darling talked of independence as a ‘road to serfdom’, Gordon Brown of it leading to Scotland becoming the equivalent of a ‘British colony’, while Ian Davidson stated with confidence that the vote had already been won and all that was left was the simple act of ‘bayoneting the wounded’.
We can argue, as I would, that there is an imbalance in this. The ‘cybernats’ are mostly if not exclusively lone operatives typing away furiously into the night in their bedsits, whereas Darling, Brown and Davidson are elected public figures with the first two having global stature. They should know better, yet their comments above represent how a whole host of Labour politicians describe the independence cause, which tells something about their Manchean and deeply insecure view of the world. Read the rest of this entry »