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Posts Tagged ‘Bella Caledonia’

We have reached a watershed for UK politics: Time for independence to catch the wave of change

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 20th 2017

These are bewildering and often disorientating times to live in. In recent weeks and months it has felt at times difficult to keep up with the speed of events – as history has been seemingly made and remade every few days.

Such periods call for being honest, respectful in debate, and reflection and self-awareness in everything any of us say or do in public. Look around at the events in the UK and world and they rightly should imbue any of us with a humbleness and wariness of easy remedies.

That said the Scottish election results mark some kind of watershed. Take a couple of perspectives from the ‘Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas’ Scotland after the election event in Glasgow on Sunday. Peter Geoghegan said the election was ‘the end of the 2014 indyref road’. John Curtice that ‘Brexit has been as disruptive for the Nationalists – as for every other party.’ Angela Haggerty that independence was facing its ‘first big test’ since 2014.

Curtice pointed out that the SNP’s 37% was the tipping point of support for the party and FPTP working in its favour (the SNP won 35 out of 59 seats: 59%). Its support is relatively flatly distributed across the country compared to its opponents, and this produces according to Curtice for the SNP ‘feast or famine’. Any further fall of even a few percent and the electoral system will begin to work against the SNP – the way it currently does for Tories, Labour and Lib Dems – and did when the SNP broke through at Westminster in October 1974: their previous peak until 2015 and 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

The Continuing Battle for Scotland: Goodbye to British politics and Goodbye to Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, April 19th 2017

The age of perma-campaigning and elections continues in Scotland. Theresa May’s snap election, supposedly to give her a mandate for Brexit which she already had, will be Scotland’s seventh visit to the polls in the last three years.

For some of us, a select few, this is nirvana. For many more it is an unwanted intrusion. But while mainstream media vox pops show us the now legendary Brenda from Bristol say how disgusted she is at having to vote again, a YouGov poll showed that 49% thought May was right to go the country and only 17% disagreed.

The battlelines of the contest, both clear and unclear, are being drawn. This is an election which will be about more than Brexit and independence, but the multiple crises and uncertainties of the UK. It isn’t an accident that there have been a pile up of elections and referendums in the UK recently, because this is one indication of the fading power and legitimacy of the political classes. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »