Clearing the Scottish Fog of War
Sunday Mail, June 28th 2015
This has been a momentous news week. The Greek crisis; Britain and Europe; the human desperation at Calais; and the related tragedy in the Mediterranean.
While this has been going on Scotland has had its own mini-ripples which pale in comparison. There was the controversy over Royal Family funding and the Crown Estate in Scotland, and at the same time, the ongoing problem of cybernat abuse and social media misbehaviour.
The Royal story saw a whole range of UK papers run front-page headlines stating ‘Scotland to cancel funding for Queen’ and ‘Scots won’t pay £2m bill for Queen.’ The most over the top came from the London ‘Times’ which in an editorial entitled ‘Insurrection’, claimed that the Scottish Government was leading a ‘rebellion’.
Trouble was no such story existed. The papers had been victims of a Buckingham Palace media operation to flush out the SNP on changes to the Sovereign Fund – what the Civil List is now called. In so doing, they seemed to believe what they wanted to and confused a number of basic facts – such as the fundamental difference between the Sovereign Fund and the Crown Estate. Read the rest of this entry »
The Rise and Fall of the House of Scottish Labour
June 22nd 2015
The story of the Scottish Labour Party was, until recently, one of the defining stories of Scotland over most of the 20th century.
First there was its rise – the emergence of ‘Red Clydeside’ and the socialist pioneers, and how radicalism gave way to respectability. Second, there was the ‘golden era’ of action and purpose – of Tom Johnston, and the big ideas and schemes, which began to fade as Labour morphed in the 1960s and 1970s into the political establishment. And finally, there has been the slow decline of the party, which accelerated in recent reverses to the SNP – most spectacularly, the near complete wipeout at the May 2015 general election.
A month and a half after the SNP triumph and Labour rout, which historian Tom Devine called Labour’s ‘Culloden’ (1), there is still an inability on all sides, victors and vanquished, to come to terms with the new landscape. There are still missing stories and voices. On the most basic level, politicians are human beings first and politicians second. A whole host of Labour politicians taken out in May are going through various stages of shock, bewilderment, even anger – equivalent to coming to terms with bereavement.
It isn’t a surprise then, that in the immediate aftermath, a number of Labour MPs who lost their seats just took themselves out of public life. For BBC Scotland’s documentary, ‘The Fall of Scottish Labour’ (2) shown tonight, in which I am interviewed, several former senior politicians including Jim Murphy, Douglas Alexander and Margaret Curran refused to be involved, intimating that it was just too early. Read the rest of this entry »
The Greek Crisis matters to Scotland, Britain and Europe – as well as Greece
Sunday Mail, June 21st 2015
Europe is not a happy place.
The European Union has failed to agree a common stance on the human disaster of Mediterranean immigrants, while Vladimir Putin has used military aggression to alter the boundaries of Russia and Ukraine and annex Crimea, as Europe has stood by.
Closer to home, Britain is preparing for a referendum on whether or not to continue its EU membership – the first full member state to ever do so. And then most seriously, there is the continuing Greek crisis.
The EU has been through financial crises in recent times – from Portugal and Spain to Ireland – but the Greek one is the most serious yet. Current betting odds on whether Greece will leave the euro, the ‘Grexit’, have narrowed dramatically. Read the rest of this entry »
The SNP Ascendancy is changing Scotland and the SNP
Sunday Mail, June 14th 2015
The Scottish sun is out, and summer is approaching. This is true not just of the weather but reflects the mood of the SNP, their popularity, and especially that of leader Nicola Sturgeon.
In the last week a TNS opinion poll for next year’s Scottish Parliament election put the SNP on 60% and Labour 19% in the constituency vote – a historic all-time high and low respectively. This would give the SNP a second overall majority and more seats than it won in its 2011 landslide.
Nicola Sturgeon is getting plaudits everywhere. She survived being billed as ‘a comedian’ in advance publicity for Jon Stewart’s ‘The Daily Show’ in the States, and was then compared to Saddam Hussein by the host on the programme – on which she performed with humour and star quality. Read the rest of this entry »
Debating with ‘The Economist’ its Scottish Independence Coverage
An Exchange between Gerry Hassan and Jeremy Cliffe
June 11th 2015
June 10th 2015 17.00
Thank you for your letter of May 14th (1). Zanny has asked me to reply on
On our use of “secession”, “secessionist” and “separatist”, I refer
you to my email of March 24th. On “partition” and “dismemberment”, I
repeat the points made in that earlier message. Those terms are
descriptive and accurate. We use them in other contexts where – unlike
that of the United Kingdom – we support the separation in question.
For example, we welcomed both the “dismemberment” of the FSA and the
“partition” of Sudan.
Nor is Scotland’s pro-independence movement the only one of its kind
to which we apply such language. As a keen reader of The Economist you
will know that we use “secession” and “separatist” in our coverage of
its Catalan and Quebcois counterparts. Indeed, a quick perusal of our
recent pieces on Catalan nationalism shows that we have used every one
of the terms to which you object in that context too. Read the rest of this entry »