Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
The Crisis of Grangemouth and What It Says About Scotland and Britain
Open Democracy, November 1st 2013
The Grangemouth story has been a modern parable – of the state of industrial relations, the interests of the media, and the condition of Scottish and UK politics – their motivations, silences and prejudices.
There has been much comment and political activity north of the border (not all of it, as we will see below, constructive). In the Westminster bubble which so dominates and distorts English politics, there have been either ideologically offensive and ignorant comments, or more widely, near-complete political inactivity, disinterest and the crashing sounds of silence.
First though, let’s try and dismiss the notion that Grangemouth can be simply seen through the prism of capital/labour relations, tempting though it is. Robin McAlpine’s persuasive piece last week explored part of this, but didn’t touch upon the wider canvas (1). We don’t gain thirty years into neo-liberalism’s onslaught by returning to the old left comfort blankets of creating pantomime villains of a big bad boss class, and failing to recognise the inadequacies of other actors – trade unions, Labour and the Westminster political classes. Read the rest of this entry »
The Power of the London Scots
The Scotsman, August 24th 2013
One of the most powerful group of Scottish opinion formers do not live and work in Scotland, but are the London Scots.
This group are never far from the public gaze. They come into focus with the northern exodus of the London and Southern classes at Festival time, personified in Andrew Marr’s recent intervention at the Book Festival about the state of Scotland.
Marr stated that, ‘There is a very strong anti-English feeling (in Scotland), everybody knows it’ and that ‘it could become toxic’. Two of his main pieces of evidence were Alasdair Gray’s comments about ‘colonists’ and ‘settlers’, and the Nigel Farage standoff in the Royal Mile with the Radical Independence Conference supporters.
Marr’s Edinburgh appearance did not give the impression that he had been following Scottish politics closely, getting several basic facts wrong. He has had recent mitigating circumstances, but a similar pattern can be observed in his newly written essay in ‘The Battle for Scotland’, first published in 1992. In this Marr writes that apparently Scotland was governed by a SNP-Green coalition in 2007 which will be news to Patrick Harvie, gets the results of the 1979 and 1997 referenda wrong in percentages and actual numbers, and much more. Read the rest of this entry »
What happens after the demise of ‘the Holy Trinity’ of Britishness?
The Scotsman, August 17th 2013
It has been a week of momentous events. The unfolding Egyptian tragedy, the restarting of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, and in our corner of the world, the first Scotland v. England match in over a decade.
It feels inappropriate and insensitive to mention a mere football match in the company of such historic events. Yet, I think with that caveat the game mattered because it offered a glimpse of future possible arrangements. Two neighbours and friends with a rich, shared history, but who have slowly drifted apart. And in this slow semi-detachment, they have begun to appreciate each other in a new light. At least, that’s what I thought about the football.
Much of the Scottish debate and sentiment seems at times to not connect to wider dynamics and factors, from the state of British politics to wider global issues. Clearly the same can be said about some of the central delusions which have a vice like grip on British politics.
One of the defining factors in Scottish sensibilities is the state of the pan-British institutions which used to contribute towards the expression in both popular will and institutional form of a collective sense of modern Britishness. Read the rest of this entry »
Unionists, come out and declare your ‘nationalism’
The Scotsman, August 10th 2013
The story is familiar: there is a pesky, partisan, immature nationalism out and about influencing our body politic.
This is the account of Scottish nationalism put forward by a range of commentators and public figures. Yet it could as easily be articulated about the ideas of unionism because unionism is at its heart a form of nationalism – British state nationalism.
Scottish nationalism has its faults and limitations. It is cautious, conservative and shaped by the characteristics of the society from which it was born. It is also a nationalism, but at least it understands itself as such and is seen as such a phenomenon by everyone.
Unionism doesn’t comprehend that it is a nationalism. It is an obvious point when you think about it. What state does unionism declare its allegiance and loyalty to above all else? The British state. Yet unionism is in denial that it is such a thing as nationalism; it thinks nationalism is about others and not about itself. Read the rest of this entry »
Who is the Real Gordon Brown and Why It Matters?
The Scotsman, August 3rd 2013
Gordon Brown dominated Scottish politics for several decades. Now gone from the stage, he has only left memories and the issue of his legacy.
Brown is a fascinating figure – a very public person, but private; moral in his deliberations yet filled with caution; supposedly radical but profoundly conservative.
Kevin Toolis’s new play ‘Confessions of Gordon Brown’ (on at the Pleasance during the Festival) attempts to get inside the mind and psyche of Brown. This is a potent idea and something writers previously explored with Blair, perhaps most notably in ‘The Trial of Tony Blair’, where he is seen to be haunted by the ghosts of Iraqi war dead.
Toolis portrays Brown’s personal tragedy – as a man of idealism being lost in the compromises and challenges of politics. Yet to imagine Brown’s plight as primarily one of personal demons involves reducing the political down to just the individual, and issues of motivation and conscience. Read the rest of this entry »