The Power and Absence of Doubt in the Nationalist Independence Cause
Scottish Review, August 13th 2014
It has not been a great week for the independence cause and for the SNP.
This has been made worse by the self-denial and delusion expressed by a host of independence supporters including parts of the commentariat, the SNP and on-line opinion.
The SNP’s position on currency union, along with EU membership, has for ages been the weak flank of their entire proposition. Thus, it should have been no surprise to anyone when Alistair Darling basically mugged Salmond on the former in last week’s TV debate.
These problems touch on the dominant voice of the independence debate and cause. It is one of certainty, not showing doubt or acknowledging risk, and instead presenting an air of effortless confidence.
This approach does not address many of the realities of independence and much of the modern world: the realities of risk, uncertainty and the virtues of ambiguity and doubt. Read the rest of this entry »
What does it take to be a good man in Scotland?
Scottish Review, August 6th 2014
This is the day after the first gladiatorial debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling – two respectable, rather conventional, men of similar age only divided by the constitutional question.
A large part of the independence debate like significant elements of Scottish public life is defined and shaped by gender and in particular, the behaviour, actions and views of some men.
For decades Scottish politics, at Westminster level, was a male-only zone; as recently as 1979 only one woman Scottish MP was elected. Similarly many of the positions of power in corporate life and boardrooms are male dominated, and by men of a certain narrow disposition in terms of social background, attitudes and interests.
During that period, the public and voluntary sectors in Scotland have more dramatically changed and in so doing in many places look more diverse and representative of society. Indeed, across Scotland in the last 20-30 years there has been an untold story of the increasing feminisation in work, society and of the attitudes and expectations of many men and women. Read the rest of this entry »
The Glasgow Games, the Great War and A Requiem for the Post-War Dream
National Collective, August 4th 2014
Two very different tales of a city and a country – Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games followed by the Glasgow Cathedral commemoration of the outbreak of World War One when the UK declared war on Germany.
The Commonwealth Games showcased Glasgow on a Scottish, UK and global stage, aided by ‘Team Scotland’s’ best ever haul of medals. The games profiled Glasgow as an international city and tourist destination – a transition which has been underway for at least the last 30 years. How big a change this is can be underlined by the British Association’s annual conference proceedings in 1958 which took place in Glasgow. In its foreword the association boldly declared:
Our visitors are likely to know little of us. Glasgow does not rank as a tourist attraction: the Glorious Twelfth takes them to the North, the Royal and Ancient to the East and the Festival to Another Place.
The Glasgow of the games was very different from this, and from the powerful hackneyed and miserablist images of the city which have crowded out other accounts. It came across as vibrant, full of stunning Victorian buildings and animated people, yet at the same time this was a carefully choreographed creation: the brand of ‘official Glasgow’ which has co-opted everything from the patter to the infamous traffic cone on the Duke of Wellington’s head outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Read the rest of this entry »
The Strange Death of Liberal England Continued
Scottish Review, July 30th 2014
Liberal England is in a state of confusion. There is the challenge of the Scottish independence referendum, the continued right wing drift of UK politics, and the slow detachment of the UK from the European Union.
All of the above cause apoplexy and dismay to the thinking elements of the English left. One response to this from people such as Labour MP John Cruddas and Billy Bragg is to try to re-ignite the English radical imagination and challenge the increasingly English nationalist overtones of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. A second response from the likes of Ken Loach and Owen Jones believe in the ‘Spirit of 45’ being invoked shaped by romanticism and simplistic, wishful thinking.
However, the largest group by far on the English left in intellectual circles is in denial about the state of Britain. This is not a happy or confident time to be a progressive in England, and despite the actions of thirty years of post-war Labour Governments (thirteen of them under the recent auspices of New Labour), it cannot be claimed seriously that Britain is becoming a better, fairer place. Progressive politics has given up believing that it can create the future, instead pessimistically sensing that the right have the best tunes to fit our times and laid claim to tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »
A Time for Boldness and Honesty: 21st Century Scottish Radicalism
Scottish Review, July 23rd 2014
The independence referendum has seen an explosion of radical and progressive thinking and activism. Where there was once silence and disillusion, now there is hope, excitement and imagination.
There is the generosity and pluralism of National Collective, the breadth and reach of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), and the energy and dynamism of the Jimmy Reid Foundation. Then there is a wider set of trends looking at how to develop a deeper democracy from the work of So Say Scotland and its Citizen’s Assembly, ‘the art of hosting’ processes, and the Electoral Reform Society’s work on deliberative democracy.
The above – with all its undoubted positives – has to be put in historical and political context, understanding the shortcomings and failures of the left generally, and the Scottish left in particular. This is an essential prerequisite if this outburst of energy and radicalism is to have a lasting effect on the Scottish body politic. Read the rest of this entry »