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Posts Tagged ‘Bella Caledonia’

Ten Years on the SNP and Scottish nationalism require a different politics for the future

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 24th 2017

The SNP have been a breath of fresh air to Scotland. Fifty years ago this year the modern SNP emerged with the talismanic victory of Winnie Ewing at the Hamilton by-election, and Scotland was never quite the same again.

If you doubt this, think of a Scotland without the SNP. The only way Scots would be able to show their dissatisfaction with Westminster and difference from the rest of the UK would be to remain loyal to Labour. That would work (to an extent) under Tory UK Governments, but not quite when Labour was in power at Westminster.

The SNP in opposition and then in office have changed the parameters of Scottish politics. They have literally changed the name on the door to that of the Scottish Government – marking a profound shift from the dull administration of the previous titled Scottish Executive. They have altered the nature of the role of First Minister to being the national leader of the country. They have brought statecraft and competence to government. And they brought Scotland onto the international stage – first, with the release of al-Megrahi, and then more substantially, in the long campaign of the first indyref.

Ten years into office and with another indyref looking inevitable, this is an appropriate time to reflect, analyse and take stock on the record of the SNP and of wider Scottish nationalism. The former will be the focus of the forthcoming ‘A Nation Changed? The SNP and Scotland Ten Years On’, edited by myself and Simon Barrow, head of the think tank Ekklesia, which will be published in June. 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 »

Could Scotland really be reduced to the status of a region?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 18th 2017

When did present day Scotland begin? Not the ‘modern’ Scotland of post-war times, or the upside and then downside of Labour Scotland. But the land that we visibly live in today – shaped by the ghosts of industries long gone and the sins and excesses of Thatcher and Blair.

The conventional answer is 1979: the ‘Year Zero’ of Scottish sensibilities when, for many, the world was turned upside down with election of the Thatcher Government and the stalled first devolution referendum.

However, that is the view in retrospect. Thatcher didn’t unambiguously represent Thatcherism in 1979. Interestingly, most of Scotland’s non-Tory politicians and mainstream media didn’t represent it then the way we do now. For example ‘The Herald’ and ‘The Scotsman’ choose to interpret Thatcher’s first UK victory not in terms of the Scottish national dimension, but in British conventional left and right terms (neither of which were then as wedded to the constitutional debate as now).

In reality present day Scotland started somewhere between 1983 and 1987 – between the second Thatcher victory, the invention of the poll tax in 1985-86, and the third Thatcher victory in 1987: ‘the Doomsday scenario’ as it was called (meaning Scotland voted more Labour, but got a Tory Government based on English votes). Read the rest of this entry »

The Continuing Scottish Revolution: Time to Tell New Stories of Scotland

Scottish Review, January 10th 2017

Gerry Hassan

It has been an unprecedented political year, and 2017 will also be full of high drama – globally, across Europe, in the UK, and nearer to home in Scotland.

Politics isn’t everything. Just as important is culture – a word used and over-used, seemingly about everything and everywhere, but difficult, and sometimes impossible to pin down and define.

Culture when we forensically examine it can mean so many things. It can describe individual growth and enrichment. It can be about a group or community’s way of life. It expresses the activities of consuming culture. And finally, it is also used to define the way groups and organisations act and the codes and practices which shape them.

The many facets of culture and the propensity not to define then can be seen in our nation. We have a politics which is meant to be all-encompassing, but often evades detail and substance. Reinforcing this is a widespread characteristic of not wanting to define Scottish culture – for fear of ghettoising and marginalising. Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP has got us where we are, but the SNP on its own isn’t enough in the future

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, October 12th 2016

The SNP have played a huge role in getting us to where we are today. They are central to where Scotland goes in the future – but they on their own are not enough.

Without the SNP there is significant doubt that we would ever have got a Scottish Parliament. It is true that Labour legislated for it, but they were first brought back to devolution in the 1970s by the electoral threat of the SNP. Without the SNP there would have been no indyref1, and without them there will be no indyref2.

Therefore Scottish politics owes a great deal of gratitude to the SNP. Just for one second imagine politics over the last 40 years without the SNP. All Scotland would have available to show any dissatisfaction with Westminster and desire for self-government would have been to vote Labour or Lib Dem (with the Greens under FPTP remaining a minuscule force, and without the SNP there being no guarantee Labour reverted to its earlier home rule stance).

All of the above is increasingly important as the SNP prepare to meet for its Annual Conference in Glasgow, but it is also true that the SNP on their own are not enough. And blind loyalty to one party is different from passionate support for ‘the cause’ and, even at times, counter-productive. The SNP contributed hugely to getting us where we are. But they are not enough to take Scotland to the next stage: winning an indyref and making the politics of a new independent state. Read the rest of this entry »