Time Travel: the Parallel Universe of Post-ref Scotland and the Voice of Doubt
Twenty five years ago this coming Sunday an event occurred which changed our lives and is still shaping much of the modern world: the fall of the Berlin Wall.
This brought about the demise of the Soviet bloc, the end of the Yalta settlement which had divided Europe from 1945, the unification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it, its monolithic variant of Communism and any aspirations it had to making and being the future.
Much of the last 25 years flows from those tumultuous events in November 1989: the European integrationist project and the arrival of the euro, the certainty that Western political democracy had somehow defeated all other political alternatives which became hubris, and its subsequent decline and hollowing out at the hands of a self-interested crony corporate capitalism.
Scotland and Britain haven’t been immune from these potent political and economic tsunamis. Yet, there is a powerfully and noisily articulated feeling in parts of Scotland that we have somehow successfully resisted these forces, and can do so more in the future. This is seen in the pale version in the nostalgia for the British post-war settlement, and in more radical expressions, that Scotland can challenge neo-liberal orthodoxies and embark on a radically different progressive course, which no one else has yet succeeded at. Read the rest of this entry »
Scottish Labour: The Never-ending Soap Opera That Matters
Scottish Review, October 29th 2014
Scottish Labour loves talking about itself. The evidence for this is everywhere in the last few days, in print media, TV and radio studios, and social media.
Organisations which have lost their way, which are in decline and crisis, often do this as a displacement activity. Think of the Tories ‘banging on’ about Europe, or the BBC post-Savile. Such behaviour is never a good sign. It makes people think their internal obsessions are important, and that the minutiae of such debates matter to the public.
The first lesson for Labour is that lots of what it is doing does not matter at the moment. Labour has become a soap opera, one with diminishing ratings. If it were say ‘Eastenders’, it would be one where most of the original cast and big hitters (Angie and Den) have left, it is reduced to the B, then C list, and no one knows who is in it apart from a few fanatics.
The only reason the show remains on the screen is that no one has the energy or interest to pull it. Scottish Labour is the longest running soap opera currently on the go in the country. It is longer running than its main competitor for attention, drama and inadvertent comedy – Rangers FC. That’s not an honour. Read the rest of this entry »
When Britannia Ruled the Waves
Scottish Review, October 22nd 2014
The act of sailing has long been one of the ways humans have tested themselves, measuring their endurance, reflecting on life and its meaning, from Ernest Hemingway to Jonathan Raban’s ‘Coasting’, an account of sailing round Britain at the time of the Falklands war.
The experience of cruising in pleasure boats, ocean liners and luxury ships is a very different world. One filled with images of a mix of ‘Casino Royale’ and Monte Carlo stereotypes, rich playboys, people gambling and endless hedonism.
The reality is a bit different in what is a multi-billion pound industry which caters for all sorts of different interests and incomes. This was illustrated by my recent ten day cruise on the Fred. Olsen ship the MS Black Watch which sailed from North Shields across the North Sea to the Baltic, stopping off in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo, and sailing up the Kiel Canal.
The Black Watch first came into service in 1972 and like all Olsen liners is a middle sized ship compared to the behemoths being built for the ever opulent who wish to maintain their lifestyle on the seas. Captained by Finnish Mikael Degerlund, the ship had 765 passengers from nine countries, most from the UK, and 340 crew from eighteen countries. Read the rest of this entry »
Is Social Justice Really What Defines Modern Scotland?
Scottish Review, October 8th 2014
There are many Scotlands and there are many realities, lives and experiences which do not find favour or voice in prevailing public descriptions.
Many of our dominant versions give centrestage to politics, which isn’t all there is to life anywhere. Think of Yes and No, unionism and nationalism, left and right, Labour and SNP, Tory and anti-Tory. These are all politically restrictive labels in which some see themselves, and that define others who are different to them.
How much of Scotland do these terms capture and miss out? Which of the above can really claim to speak for all, or even most of, Scotland? Indeed, is it possible at the moment to describe and do justice to the diverse and contradictory realities of this country?
Last week I caught two versions of very different Scotlands. On one day I spoke to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on Scotland after the referendum. People at this event were animated, informed, and fully aware of divergent forces and tensions – Scottish, British, European and global – which influenced their work. They recognised that there was a distinct Scottish political environment, a version of SNP machine politics, problematic Westminster politics, and a Tory Party agenda which was going somewhere unpleasant with its mix of populism and scapegoating. Read the rest of this entry »
A weekend of politics, culture and ideas …. And fun!
Friday November 28th-Sunday November 30th
The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool
SCOTLAND AFTER THE REFERENDUM
THE LAST CHANGIN SCOTLAND WEEKEND Read the rest of this entry »