Where does real political power sit in Scotland? And where do we want it?
Sunday Mail, September 6th 2015
The Scottish Parliament is one of the central pillars of public life.
It has become the unquestioned landmark and focus of domestic politics in the country. People look to it, want it to have more powers, and generally trust it much more to look after their interests than Westminster.
That is all good and well. Yet, when people think of the Scottish Parliament what they tend to have a vision of is not the reality, but the broad idea.
The idea of the Scottish Parliament is an unqualified positive. It has changed Scotland, how we think of ourselves and how we want to be governed. But because people follow little of the debates at Parliament they don’t know much about what it actually does.
The reality of the Scottish Parliament’s actions is that it hasn’t directly done that much to change Scotland – in its decisions or debates. And nor is it where political power can be found. Read the rest of this entry »
One Year on from the IndyRef: Making the Scotland of the Future
Open Democracy, September 2nd 2015
Scottish public life has dramatically changed in recent times – the SNP 2011 first landslide, the independence referendum, and the 2015 tartan tsunami.
Yet Scotland, like everywhere, is about more than politics. In this and other areas there have been huge changes, but also continuity and conservatism, the balance of which we are still trying to make sense of, and with huge consequences for the future of Scotland and the UK.
Take the indyref. It didn’t come from nowhere. It came in the context of wider change in Scotland – of the decline of the traditional establishment and the old unionist order, and of the potent culture of deference, authority and of people knowing their place which for so long hung over large aspects of society.
The indyref changed many things. But it has become a well-worn cliché to say it has changed everything. What it has done is act simultaneously as a spike, watershed and a catalyst to further change in public life. It will take years to establish the balance between these different forces and, nearly a year after the vote, the pattern of these different dynamics and their impact is still evolving. Read the rest of this entry »
Can Radical Scotland find its Voice? And if so could it be RISE?
Sunday Mail, August 30th 2015
This weekend a new force in the Scottish political scene emerged – RISE – standing for Respect, Independence, Socialism and Environmentalism.
What do we need a new political force for, you may ask? We already have a crowded political landscape. And why do we need another pro-independence one? At last count there were already four: SNP, Scottish Greens, Scottish Socialists and Solidarity.
RISE, in case anyone thinks otherwise, has no connection to George Galloway (he is another kind of Respect) and certainly has none with former MSP Tommy Sheridan, who now has his own one-man show with Solidarity.
RISE emerged from the impetus of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) that had a significant impact in the independence referendum – and is an alliance of the Scottish Left Project with the non-Sheridan remains of the Scottish Socialist Party. Read the rest of this entry »
The Sounds of Silence in Scotland
Sunday Mail, August 23rd 2015
Scotland is a land of tolerance and friendliness.
Glasgow is the friendly city, Scottish people chat to strangers, and we are, many think, more convivial than the English. Some believe this the product of tenement living.
There are moments which jar with this. There was the Section 28/Clause 2A battle on ‘promoting’ homosexuality in schools more than a decade ago. There was the revelation of the Catholic Church’s systemic covering up of child sexual abuse in its ranks, for which it apologised this week in the McLellan Commission.
There are many other fissures in our idea of who we are. One is, that like elsewhere, racism and xenophobia exists in Scotland. Hostility to asylum seekers and immigrants is only less potent in our country because of the numbers and visibility factor. Scotland is not that different from the rest of the UK – with 68% of the population wanting much tougher controls on immigration. Read the rest of this entry »
Let Us face the Future: Labour, Jeremy Corbyn and the Power of the Past
Open Democracy, August 21st 2015
This is the most exciting and cataclysmic Labour leadership contest in a generation.
The nearest comparison must be the Benn insurgency for the Deputy Leadership of the party in 1981, where he narrowly lost to Denis Healey. This marked the peak of the left’s influence in Labour – until now.
What is occurring in the Labour contest, with the rise of Jeremy Corbyn and the diminishing of Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall, is little more than the passing of a political generation, and the main reference points and ways in which the party has understood itself and done its politics.
The Blairite project is over, with the Blairites now reduced to a tiny rump and a few desperate, intemperate followers (Progress, John McTernan). Labour’s traditional right has been hollowed, out with the trade union leadership and activist base who once gave the party such ballast (and brought it back from the Bennite induced abyss in 1981-82) now firmly on the left.
To illustrate the scale of change in Labour, the previous centre of gravity of the party in the Kinnock years, and even in the early years of New Labour (‘the soft left’) has all but disappeared. Its leading proponents have been tarnished by office (John Prescott), died (Robin Cook), or gone to foreign shores (Bryan Gould) and have not been replaced by a younger group. Read the rest of this entry »