‘English Votes’ is political vandalism and fundamentally changes Britain

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, October 25th 2015

This week the United Kingdom profoundly changed in how it does politics, democracy and how Parliament operates.

The House of Commons decided by 312 to 270 voters to alter the nature of its composition by differentiating the voting rights of MPs through introducing English votes for English laws. Meaning that – for English-only matters and legislation – Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs will be excluded from a new ‘grand committee’ stage of the bill – which effectively replaces the substantive second reading of a bill.

Why has this happened now and why does it matter? Much of this debate isn’t actually very new. These issues were first raised in the late 19th century when Irish home rule was proposed by Gladstone, and in response, qualifying the rights of MPs was raised; then often called ‘In/Out voting’.

The tipping point was Scotland’s independence referendum. David Cameron announced the next morning that ‘the voices of England must be heard’ and interpreting this as ‘English votes for English laws.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP cannot afford to become the Party of the Status Quo

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, October 18th 2015

The SNP is understandably in good spirit.

This is the sort of times that politicians dream of. In the aftermath of the indyref, the SNP has gone from strength to strength, winning 56 out of 59 Westminster seats in May, and looking certain to retain and even strengthen their parliamentary majority at Holyrood next year.

Despite this the SNP leadership feels it has to negotiate a careful line. First, talk about a second indyref has been effectively banned in public. Even openly reflecting on why last year’s referendum was lost has been officially discouraged.

Second, as one insider said, its intended focus is on ‘Holyrood 3, not indyref 2’ – with the aim on a historic SNP third term. That should mean discussing domestic policy and the government’s record. But given the rising criticism of some of that – in educational attainment, health, Police Scotland and local government for example – little seems to be getting put forward beyond general mood music of ‘keeping public services public’, ‘standing up for Scotland’ and opposing ‘Tory austerity’. Read the rest of this entry »

The Appeal and Vision of Tory Britain shouldn’t be underestimated by the left

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, October 11th 2015

The Tory conference gathered this week in good spirits after unexpectedly winning an overall majority in May, and with all their main UK political opponents in disarray.

One rather significant anniversary passed unnoticed this week. This was the 65th anniversary – the day after Cameron’s speech – of Harold Macmillan’s ‘you’ve never had it so good’ election victory in 1959 when the Tories won a third term and overall majority of 100 seats.

Britain and Scotland have changed dramatically since then. Tories and Labour were national parties; neither is now. In 1959 the Tories won 47.2% of the Scottish vote and 31 seats, whereas this May they won 14.9% – and a solitary MP. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Nationalism alone is not enough’ as the SNP finally shows it is mortal

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, October 4th 2015

After eight years of defying the laws of political gravity, the normal rules of politics are back. The SNP are, like everyone else, mortal.

Michelle Thomson, newly elected SNP MP for Edinburgh West, has built a £1.7m property portfolio with her husband through buying properties at knock down prices from vulnerable people. Her solicitor, Christopher Hales, who undertook the conveyancing work on 13 properties was struck off last year by the Scottish Solicitors’ Discipline Tribunal.

Whatever the legality of these purchases, the ethics and morality aren’t good. This is self-interested, self-aggrandising behaviour ‘preying’ on the needy and weak. Embarrassingly, Thomson was head of pro-independence SNP-front Business for Scotland, and seen as a SNP high-flyer in the referendum. Numerous SNP senior figures praised her, from John Swinney to Fiona Hyslop, with even Jim Sillars lauding her ‘commitment to social justice’. Read the rest of this entry »

 ‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil’ Still Matters

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, September 27th 2015

One year after the referendum has seen a golden summer and autumn of Scottish theatre. Adaptions of Alasdair Gray’s ‘Lanark’ at the Citizens’ Theatre, and Alan Warner’s ‘The Sopranos’ at the Traverse, along with John McGrath’s ‘The Cheviot, the Stag and the Black, Black Oil’ at Dundee Rep.

These are all iconic, evocative plays that tell much about the Scotland in which the original texts were written, the times in which they are set, as well as the present day.  ‘Lanark’ addresses the scale of economic, social and psychological change in post-war Glasgow and the West of Scotland; ‘The Sopranos’ (adapted as ‘Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour’) deals with youthful rebellion and expression, but it is ‘The Cheviot’ which attempts the most over-arching account of Scotland through the centuries to modern times.

Written by John McGrath, first premiered by his theatre company 7:84 in Aberdeen in 1973 and then shown as a BBC ‘Play for Today’ in 1974, it has now returned for the first time in over twenty years, adapted by Joe Douglas and Dundee Rep Ensemble. Read the rest of this entry »

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