Posts Tagged ‘Bella Caledonia’

Shining a Spotlight on Power in the Darkness in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, April 29th 2016

A few months ago I watched the award-winning film ‘Spotlight’ – the story of the ‘Boston Globe’s’ investigative unit of the same name that examined allegations of Catholic Church sexual abuse.

Although set in Boston in 2001 the film has a linear story – and old-fashioned feel. This is reinforced by its serious subject matter and straightforward approach that helped it win several Oscars this year, including for best film.

I couldn’t help but be moved by the immediate story the film conveyed, and also to think of its relevance to Scotland. Where have been our ‘Spotlights’ ? Who has systematically shone light on abuses of power, and do most of us even care that most power is exercising in the dark – far from scrutiny?

These thoughts returned when I attended The Ferret’s first ever conference in Glasgow last weekend. Set up by Peter Geoghegan, Rob Edwards, Rachel Hamada and Billy Briggs this is Scotland’s first on-line investigative journalist resource. It has already in a few months broken several stories – including Police in Scotland violating secrecy laws with CCTV, and SNP links to a fracking company – and been nominated for UK media awards. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain’s Elites can no longer control our politics:

The European Vote will change Britain and Scotland Forever

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, February 26th 2016

The European referendum is a milestone for Scotland and the UK.

It is impossible to understate the historic times we are witnessing – a British establishment and political elite no longer in command of politics and affairs of the state in a way they are used to. The Economist this week, well known for its advocacy of economic liberalism and the maintenance of the union of the UK, acknowledged that this vote was ‘not only the most crucial event in this Parliament but the most important in Europe in years’ (February 27th 2016).

What such mainstream accounts don’t say is that the nature of the UK, its component parts, how it does politics, and limited, truncated form of democracy, is being radically altered, and will be further changed by the Euro vote, in ways far reaching and in many respects unintended. Below are an exploration of some of the many ways this will happen at a British and Scottish level over the course of the campaign, the possible result and aftermath.


1. The end of British politics will be confirmed. The 2015 UK election was the least British on record. The EU referendum will show four very different versions of politics across the four nations of the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

The Framing of the Scottish Independence Debate: A Tale of Two Referenda

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, May 15th 2013

Two independence campaigns are now running in the UK: one on Scottish independence; the other which has become more public in the last week, on the UK’s possible exit from the European Union. Strangely they operate in near complete isolation of each other, with the Euro referendum being talked about as if we still lived in the high days of untrammelled Westminster parliamentary sovereignty.

In the last week, the front page of the Scottish edition of The Times reported a fall in support for Scottish independence of 3% as, ‘’Yes’ vote hits trouble as support crumbles’ (May 9th 2013). The same week it began its campaign for the UK to embark on EU withdrawal, lining up a chorus line of Tory grandees to declare their support for exit; successive front pages declared, ‘Lawson: It’s time to quit EU’ (May 7th 2013) and ‘Voters tell Cameron to cut Europe down to size’ (May 8th 2013); and were followed by Michael Portillo coming out of support of withdrawal, ‘We don’t share Europe’s vision. So I want out’ (May 9th 2013). The front page of the Scottish edition on the day of the Lawson announcement also included a headline stating, ‘Independent Scotland may struggle to keep lights on’ (May 7th 2013).

One has the language of ‘separatism’, ‘separation’ and is filled with risk and negativity; the other the language of ‘a new relationship’, ‘renegotiation’ and greater choice and flexibility; the first about Scottish independence, the second British withdrawal from the EU. When I asked Angus Macleod, editor of The Times Scottish edition why he used pejorative language on Scotland in one of the pieces cited above he answered, ‘Independence is in in the intro and elsewhere. Separation is used for variety. It’s called journalism’ (twitter, May 9th 2013). Read the rest of this entry »

The Scotland of the Democratic Future: Some Tentative Lessons from Chile

Gerry Hassan

Della Caledonia, February 14th 2013

It has been a telling week for the contours of the future debate on whether Scotland becomes independent. Both the ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ campaigns contain different tones and messages within them, but what has been revealing has been the over-reach and uncompromising character of the UK Government in dealing with its pesky, upstart northern troublemaker.

We shouldn’t expect anything better. The British state has increasingly become the vehicle of a narrow set of economic and political interests, introverted, obsessed with their own worldview, and intent on lecturing the rest of us to pull our socks up, work harder and longer, look after our own pension, and not to worry about such small things as ethical banking and politics, or safe food. For them the challenges of the future are overcoming popular resistance to this, advancing uber-globalisation, and what they see as the most critical referendum, the eventual Euro vote.

In this context, Scotland is met with disdain and dismissal, along with an incremental statecraft which concedes some more powers and autonomy (the disasterous and unloved Scotland Act 2012). The UK Government’s paper launched this Monday described the limbo an independent Scotland would be put into (in a week the resignation of the Pope reminded us of the Catholic Church’s abandonment of the term), and saw the reasonable words of the UK Government’s experts James Crawford of Oxford University and Alan Boyle of Edinburgh University turned into dogmatism and a Scotland facing uncertainty and isolation (1). Read the rest of this entry »

What Do ‘Fred the Shred’ and David Murray Tell Us About Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, February 17th 2012

This is not another article on football. The Rangers crisis has filled the airwaves and media this week. For the second time this year Scotland has gone international and viral, spreading across the globe connecting the diaspora and other interested parties.

Many people ask how this came to pass with Rangers. All kinds of reasons and conspiracies are proposed: pro-Rangers bias, anti-Celtic opinion, Protestantism/anti-Catholicism, and the carve up of ‘the Old Firm’ duopoly.

We need to lift our heads from thinking of football on its own and see this in the context of Scotland. For what the Rangers story tells us is that Scottish society has a problem with power, its relationship to it, and how they hold it to account, scrutinise and inquire into its actions.

This can be seen across Scottish public life from football to business to politics. The Rangers saga has festered for many years. David Murray’s massive overspending and the bludgeoning of the club’s debts were very public and known to be unsustainable. Craig Whyte’s credentials were widely questioned when he took over. Read the rest of this entry »