How to Make a New Scottish Democracy

Gerry Hassan          

The Herald, June 18th 2014

The contemporary Scottish independence debate is about many things and influences: the aspiration of some to make a new Scottish state, or to remain in the shared sovereignties of the UK. But another crucial influence is the state of the UK: its economic and social inequities and concentrations of power and wealth, and the failure of the progressive dream at a British level despite thirty years of Labour Governments in office over the post-war era.

Underpinning all of the above concerns is the fact that the UK is not and never has been a fully-fledged political democracy. This is recognised when the UK is described accurately as a constitutional monarchy or as a parliamentary democracy. Such constitutional figures as far apart as Enoch Powell on the right and Tony Benn on the left understood this. So too do parts of Britain’s political elite, but they shy away from conceding this or talking about it in public.

The reality is that the UK is increasingly influenced by the repackaging and representing of its past by its elites, and the appropriation of the voices of past generations like some once splendid country house fallen on hard times and telling tales of yesteryear. Read the rest of this entry »

Why the Nazis and 1930s are alive and kicking in the independence debate?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 11th 2014

The Nazis are on the rise everywhere. They are cited on both sides of the bitter Ukrainian conflict, in places such as Greece and Hungary with neo-Nazi and fascist parties, and in some of the outrageous comments of the French Front National and even Ukip’s more extreme fringe.

The spectre of the Nazis and fascism have become increasingly omnipotent over the last twenty years to become a defining set of historical and cultural references in the UK, and England in particular. This was aided by Pier Morgan, as editor of the ‘Daily Mirror’, and his use of German caricatures in the Euro football championship of 1996, running front-page headlines declaring ‘Achtung! Surrender’, ‘Krauts’ and ‘Huns’. And now there is the emergence of the Nazis and fascism in the Scottish independence debate.

It is meant to be an irrefutable rule that mentioning the Nazis in an argument is proof that someone is desperate and has lost it. It even has a name – Godwin’s law – but if so it does not seem to translate to large parts of Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »

The Crisis of BBC Scotland – A Lack of Vision, Integrity and Accountability

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 4th 2014

The independence referendum has thrown a spanner in the works of large parts of institutional Scotland.

So far the biggest meltdown has been CBI Scotland becoming a registered ‘No’ supporter, then baulking at the consequences. Another was the maneuvering of SCVO on the second referendum question and then being left on its own when the politicians agreed on a single question. But fast coming up the tracks in the incompetence stakes is BBC Scotland.

The latest instance is the axing of BBC presenter Gary Robertson after 24 years working for the BBC, 15 of them with BBC Scotland. Robertson has been got rid of for financial reasons. What is not officially acknowledged by the BBC, but obvious to everyone, is that this is directly related to recent decisions to hire on sizeable six figure salaries, Jim Naughtie and Sarah Smith. Read the rest of this entry »

How less than 200,000 Scots could decide the Referendum:

Your Cut Out and Paste Guide to the Independence Result

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 28th 2014

The Scottish independence referendum campaign starts ‘properly’ this week. All of the last two and a half years have been a mere preliminary or pre-season warm-up to the start of the ‘official’ contest.

Therefore, in the manner of those cut out and keep guides to the World Cup and Eurovision here is an analysis to the possible result, different permutations and interpretations of the result, along with some of the consequences. And crucially, how it could be won by a very small group of Scottish voters.

Here then are Seven Stories of the Possible Result:

1. Under 40% Yes vote:

This would be the end of the independence debate for the foreseeable result. Labour would see this as a vindication of their hardball partisan detestation of the SNP – viewing it as a positive foregrounding for the 2015 UK and 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. This would be a huge mistake, similar to Labour’s over-interpretation of its 2010 Scottish showing, running into the 2011 contest. Read the rest of this entry »

The Age of Rage and the Importance of Opposition – in Europe, UK and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 21st 2014

This week will see from Thursday onward the Euro-elections which will witness the emergence of a host of populists, mavericks and independent voices being elected across the continent.

The mainstream political class is in crisis across Europe. Conventional politicians and political parties are held in widespread and open contempt, often invoking more deep-seated and angry reactions.

There are huge questions for the continent – on the economic front about jobs, growth and the role of markets, on the social model and its continued viability, on public services and spending, demographic pressures with an aging population and shrinking workforce, and fears and anxieties about immigration.

Nowhere is there a sign of solutions from European elites or institutions. The crisis of the banks, sovereign debt and the euro has become one of Europe itself. Related to this the crisis has become one of the continent’s mainstream political traditions: of centre-right Christian Democracy and conservatism, and centre-left social democracy. Read the rest of this entry »