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Posts Tagged ‘Alex Salmond’

Build It and They Will Come:
Scotland and Independence after the election

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 13th 2017

The 2017 election marks the end of an era of Scottish politics.

The immediate shadow of the 2014 indyref dominating everything is over. As is the age of the Big Tent, omnipotent SNP carrying all before it. The re-emergence of the Scottish Tories and the stalling of the retreat of Scottish Labour has confounded many Nationalists.

Not only is the post-2014 indyref environment over, so too is politics defined by the constant invoking of Thatcher and Blair. No matter the depths Blair fell to, firstly, the two aren’t completely comparable, and second, Blair was once massively popular in Scotland – the 1997-99 period being one such example. Plus the Blair Government’s for all their faults did do a host of positive things: such as legislate for a Scottish Parliament (not that he really believed in it, but that’s another story). Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the SNP and Independence Supporters

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 17th 2017

These are fast moving political times for Scotland. The events of the last week illustrate the accelerated fragmentation and disintegration of the UK as we know it.

But these are also times of high stakes and stand-offs, with the Scottish and UK Governments gaming and predicting the actions of the other. Monday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon took the UK Government by surprise and seized the centrestage of British politics – forcing the postponement of triggering Article 50. Theresa May’s most recent statement, declaring that ‘now is not the time’ for a referendum’ until the Brexit talks are completed, was predictable. Despite this, it would be ill-advised to underestimate May and the UK Government who, despite her personal inflexibility and lack of comprehension of modern Scotland, will play hard to keep Scotland in the union.

Similarly, while time works in favour of independence, it also has downsides. The SNP have been in office ten years, and with each passing year have more of a record to defend. Next time, the careful 2014 balancing act of being insurgent and incumbent will be much more difficult to pull off. And the SNP’s domestic political dominance (rather like the Tories in the UK) has costs: in that there is, across the SNP and Scottish Government, a tangible weakening in political antenna and sensitivity of how policies and stances appear to those outside the administration. Such a time of high-wire politics means that it is more urgent than ever to reflect, tell hard truths, and to institutionalise more effectively a deeper pluralist politics. Read the rest of this entry »

The Myth of the Great Leader: Gordon Brown, Jimmy Reid and Alex Salmond

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 1st 2016

The times they-are-a-changing. There is a tangible feeling in the air of discontent, anger and bewilderment. People feel let down and cheated by the multiple powers that be.

It isn’t surprising then that there is a palpable sense of national nostalgia depicted on TV – remakes fill the screens (Are You Being Served?, Porridge), while period dramas (Downton Abbey) or endless documentaries on World War Two and the Nazis are hugely popular.

The left aren’t immune to this either – having always had their own strand of radical nostalgia from primitive communism, to William Morris’s eco-utopia, the spirit of 1945, and the current vogue for ‘what would Keir Hardie say?’ Moreover, radical nostalgia now seems stronger than it ever has been on the left. It is conservative, about the past offering better prospects than the future, and denying the present and recent past. Jeremy Corbyn is a fitting embodiment of it: consistent and unchanging in his views since 1975, uncaring about electoral prospects, and without any evident self-criticism or original views.

The above view of the world is linked to one of the left’s great pillars – the Great Leader view of political change. Paradoxically, for a political tradition which is supposedly about collectivism, the left have bought into this individualist view of change. And of course, despite all the talk of equality, the left has been about brotherhood – so in Britain, the Great Leader has to be a man. Read the rest of this entry »

Have We Passed Peak SNP? After the Three Dreams of Scottish Nationalism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 18th 2016

Nearly fifty years ago Scotland embarked on a new political journey – one defined by the politics of Scottish nationalism, the electoral challenge of the SNP, and the debate on self-government and how to best express Scotland’s collective interests.

It has been a bumpy ride, involving controversies, incidents, moments of elation and disappointment, but while history is never tidy and linear, Scotland post-Winnie Ewing winning Hamilton in November 1967 was never the same. That much is uncontroversial. There have been subsequently three distinctive waves of SNP support: 1967-74, 1988-92, and then, post-devolution, and in particular since 2007. Each phase has been deeper and more transformative; first, challenging and then supplanting the Tories as the main opposition to Labour, then marginalising Labour, and becoming the leading party of the country.

At the onset of this the writer Tom Nairn wrote an essay, ‘Three Dreams of Scottish Nationalism’ which has often been cited, but seldom seriously analysed. Nairn foresaw three distinct dreams of Scotland historically: Reformation, romanticism, and bourgeois nationalism, each of which in its dream offered the prospect of being damned or saved, redemption or failure, wholeness and salvation or fragmentation and failure.

It is classic early Nairn from which came the famous quotes ‘Scotland will be reborn the day the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post’ and ‘there is no Stalinist like a Scottish Stalinist’ – both of which contain poetry and over-statement. Beyond this, allowing for early Nairn’s doubts about the potential of Scottish independence, much of his critique has remained constant and stands the test of time. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 15th 2016

Congratulations on last week’s historic third term. It was well deserved. The party has rightly established a reputation for competence. Nicola Sturgeon is popular and liked; none of the opposition come near.

The SNP has contributed enormously to public life. It is seen as standing up for Scotland’s interests and after decades of Labour cronyism has been a new broom.

This is probably as good as it gets. For the good of the country, the party and independence, it needs to understand the nature of its victory and mandate.

1. Nicola Sturgeon said the election gave her ‘a clear and unequivocal mandate’. That’s not accurate, and sets the wrong tone when the public have just elected a minority SNP administration.

2. There is now an established pattern emerging of SNP over-reach seen in the three peaks of the indyref, 2015 election and this year. The SNP doesn’t seem to know how to deal with huge success (2015), slight reverses (this year) and losing (indyref). That’s a worrying pattern. Read the rest of this entry »

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