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Does the appeal of Corbyn in Scotland hold the keys to Downing Street?

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian Comment, August 28th 2017

Jeremy Corbyn has been causing waves in Scotland, as he has been across the entire UK. A five-day visit has seen him get lots of coverage and in places crowds, while annoying his political opponents.

It wasn’t always so. Pre-election Corbyn had written Scotland off as hostile and unfriendly territory. Now it is back in play – after six Labour gains in June from the SNP, along with a small rise in their vote – all against everyone’s expectations.

Corbyn’s trip saw him visit eighteen constituencies – thirteen current SNP and five Labour gains in the June election – drawing criticism from the Nationalists that he was avoiding Tory seats.

This ignored that of the 64 seats Labour needs to win for a bare majority eighteen are in Scotland and all are SNP held. The magical 64th – East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow has a 3,866 SNP majority. It is not until Labour’s 96th target seat that you reach a Tory one – Renfrewshire East (formerly Jim Murphy’s seat) currently held by the Tories with a 7,150 lead over third place Labour. Read the rest of this entry »

Andrew O’Hagan’s Scotland, Storytellers, Culture and Politics

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 23rd 2017

Andrew O’Hagan is a gifted, talented writer and intellectual force who both encapsulates curiosity and creativity and encourages it in others. Last week he gave a fascinating keynote address in Edinburgh on the subject of Scotland.

O’Hagan’s very public painful relationship with modern Scotland has in the past created waves and controversies. He grew up in Kilwinning, Ayrshire, from a working class Catholic background scarred by the memories and shadow of intolerance and sectarianism. This left its mark on O’Hagan, and like James McMillan many of his crusades seem informed by the wounds left by this unpleasant experience.

He has also on numerous occasions expressed his disquiet at Scottish exceptionalism, the claims of Scottish nationalism, and intervened many times pouring a potent lyrical scorn on aspects of our conceits, and of course, the case for independence. In many respects, O’Hagan’s past interventions, like McMillan, come from a very old Scottish tradition, of over-stating your case to invite a response. This is the male, flyting, black and white tradition of the Hugh MacDiarmids and Hamish Hendersons, which some like to romanticise, but, undeniably excluded many, and hurt and humiliated others. Read the rest of this entry »

The Scottish Question has not yet been answered:

The SNP, Independence and the Future of Our Nation

Sunday Herald, August 20th 2017

Gerry Hassan

SCOTTISH politics feels, and looks on the surface, becalmed at the moment. This is an age of permanent disruption – of populist movements, protests, anger, indignation, dismay and social division. This shouldn’t surprise anyone considering the politics of the last 40 years across the West: the rise of inequality and insecurity, the grand theft and appropriation of the super-rich. In the 10 years since the financial crash, the fundamentals of finance capitalism haven’t changed, while in the UK, US and elsewhere real-terms living standards have flatlined.

Scotland isn’t an exception. But there has been a growing Scottish autonomy and detachment from the rest of Britain and the direction of British politics. The idea of Britain as a political entity, not a geographical territory, is now in crisis. This means that the idea of independence – beyond the SNP’s cautious version of it – speaks to this wider canvas – of a more autonomous, distinctive Scotland which doesn’t look to Westminster for solutions or the future, whereas unionism, despite its tactical successes in the recent election, has very little positive to offer.

There is even a difference of opinion within the independence movement, not just between the SNP and those of other and no parties. This is between those who want to navigate through this age of uncertainty by emphasising security, stability and solidarity, championing worthy British values from the immediate post-war era. And those who recognise that in this era of instability, independence can only be about embracing change as the best way to articulate the Scotland of the future. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Salmond, Showbiz and whatever happened to the politics of optimism?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 16th 2017

All political leaders have a certain limited shelf life. If they are very successful and lucky they win elections, hold power and make decisions, but the public eventually grow tired and wary of their constant public presence.

The twilight years and long goodbyes of the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ted Heath and his thirty year grudge with Thatcher, are all examples of how difficult many find the transition. Thatcher, whatever your political views of her, won three elections in a row, and after her party overthrew her, pined for the call to return. Blair, despite his millions and acclaim from various despots, yearns for domestic political influence and has, until the June election, been making plans for a new pro-EU centrist party – which might now be off or still on.

The SNP and Scottish nationalism has played a huge part in our recent history and central to this has been Alex Salmond who led the party over two periods and twenty years: 1990-2000 and 2004 and 2014.

There are numerous achievements to his leadership in changing the SNP and Scotland permanently. First, he professionalised how the SNP conducted itself and politics, bringing a discipline and self-denying ordinance. The SNP became a party which looked outward and to win – a shift from the 1980s inward obsessions (and also with Scottish Labour’s lack of extrovert interest in winning floating voters at the time). Read the rest of this entry »

From Peak Nat to Pique Nat: Is Alex Salmond becoming a problem for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP?

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian Comment, August 15th 2017

Alex Salmond is one of the big beasts not just of Scottish, but British politics and the defining figure of modern Scottish nationalism and the SNP.

He has been leader of the SNP for a total of twenty years (1990-2000; 2004-2014), First Minister of Scotland for seven years, and in 2014 took the SNP closer than any of its opponents thought possible to the party’s ultimate goal of independence.

Yet he now finds himself bereft of a major public role, after losing the referendum and standing down as First Minister, and subsequently losing his Westminster Gordon seat to Tory Colin Clark. Read the rest of this entry »

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