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Scotching the Myths of Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 7th 2017

Cultures and nations live by myths. This has been so since the dawn of civilisation and has never been more apparent in recent weeks, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London that have so dominated the first half of 2017 in Britain and the UK general election.

The popular slogan invoking the spirit of the Blitz and World War Two – ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ – embodies how the British like to see themselves when under pressure. There is stoicism, a determination to continue with everyday life, and a quiet patriotism that is more about what makes people proud of this country than feeling superior to others.

This of course is part of the foundation story of Britain of the UK standing alone in the past and future – apart from Europe – and drawing from a seamless thread of uninterrupted British history. Never mind the facts. It doesn’t matter that there was an English Civil War in the 17th century, that the UK only took its name in 1801, or that its current legal name (the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is a mere ninety years old, defined in law in 1927 after Ireland left in 1922. All nations and states have similar stories, selective memories, and deliberate remembering of some things and forgetting of others. Read the rest of this entry »

A World of Borders, Space and Culture: A Tribute to Roanne Dods

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 31st 2017

Much of modern life is shaped by the chasm between the official narratives of institutions, authority and experts and how most of us experience everyday life.

This is obvious in the bizarre experience of Britain and Scotland’s current election – one which is consuming the attentions of the political classes and its hangers-on, but which is bemusing and infuriating most of the rest of us. Don’t switch-off now. This isn’t another piece about the election and how awful it is. Instead, I want to take a journey into what it is that makes us human, the imagination and how we interact with each other.

Last weekend I went to a tribute to my friend and colleague Roanne Dods who recently passed away at the age of 51 after a battle with cancer. Many of you reading this may not have heard of her. She was a Scottish-based cultural maker of things – connections, exchanges, spaces, projects, interventions and insights. She had previously run the Jerwood Charitable Foundation arts body in London, and returned to Scotland several years ago to work on a range of projects. Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP and Tories have swapped places in Scotland: The former is the party of government. The latter the party of protest

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian Comment, May 31st 2017

It is a topsy-turvy time in Scottish politics.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon now regularly challenges Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson for going on about nothing else but independence.

Tories in Scotland have become a party of protest. Today Tory protestors stood outside the SNP manifesto launch earlier in Perth with anti-independence placards. The SNP have become a party of government. The two have literally swapped roles.

The SNP have been in office for ten years. The Tories in London for seven years. The SNP say the Tories don’t want to talk about their record. Similarly, the Tories and Labour say the same of the SNP. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for the SNP and Labour to break with the failed policies of divided Britain

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Herald, May 28th 2017

Until last week this election was one in which nothing seemed to be happening. All of that changed with the horrors of Manchester.

Such atrocities test the fabric of our democracy and civic culture and sadly find some – though thankfully few – wanting.

Theresa May came out saying some of the right words. But we have nearly 1,000 armed troops now on our streets:; a reflection of the huge police cuts she made in her six-year stint as Home Secretary and glaring failures in intelligence and security.

Tory McCarthyite smears will be out in force for the remainder of the election. Things haven’t gone quite to plan – with polls showing their lead slipping and one YouGov poll putting it as narrow as 5%, which would translate on a national swing to a Tory overall majority of a mere two seats. Read the rest of this entry »

Is it time to think of independence for London?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 24th 2017

Every day in so many ways the UK becomes more obviously divided and fragmented. The current UK general election campaign showcases this – with the absence of any real national UK politics beyond the theatre of Westminster with instead numerous national and sub-national debates.

There are, along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, several different Englands. And then there is the special case of London. As the capital of England and the UK, London is an island apart from the rest of us. It is a world city, a global magnet and an international force – economically, socially, culturally.

I spent the last weekend in London with friends. Experiencing the city is to reflect on its dynamism and variety, but also on how utterly different it is from the rest of the country. And this difference increasingly matters – both for how London sees itself and the rest of us, and obviously for the non-London population of the UK.

London is one of the drivers of the UK economy. The Greater London area contains over 8.6 million people – 12.5% of the UK population – while making up 22% of UK GDP. Its wealth dominates the UK economy. Inner London’s GDP per person in 2010 was 328% the EU average, compared to 70% in west Wales – the biggest gap in any EU state. Read the rest of this entry »

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