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Posts Tagged ‘Brexit’

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 Long Suicide of Scottish and British Labour Hurts Us All

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 1st 2017

Political parties rise and fall. They have no permanent right to a lease on the terrain they occupy and the voters they appeal to. Scottish politics has seen the decline of many once powerful forces – the Liberals, Tories, and now the Labour Party.

This weekend, and since, has witnessed what can only be described as the last vestiges of the long painful suicide of the Scottish Labour Party. Moreover, this coincided with the on-going pains and problems of the Corbyn Labour leadership – something which has far reaching consequences beyond the party.

All of this comes at a high cost. The Tory Government, despite a perilous parliamentary majority of 12 (16 when Sinn Fein abstentionism is counted), and an unelected Prime Minister, faces no credible, coherent UK parliamentary opposition.

The Tories are being left unchallenged to chart Brexit into whatever they want it to be. The passing of Article 50 through the Commons has already seen Corbyn’s Labour impose a three-line whip to support the Tories: not exactly the kind of ‘new politics’ people thought Corbyn aspired to. Read the rest of this entry »

The Day Britain Died: Brexit, Trump and Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 15th 2017

Last week a Rubicon was crossed as the House of Commons voted 494 to 122 – a government majority of 372 – to give a third reading to triggering Article 50.

Just as seriously on the same day – Wednesday February 8th 2017 – the UK Government reneged on its promise to take 3,000 child refugees (what was called the Dubs amendment) and slashed the number to 350. If that wasn’t enough the Commons at the same time voted to refuse to offer any guarantees to EU citizens living in the UK: content to use them as pawns in a high power poker game.

It is going to be difficult for many in Scotland, and for many ‘Scottish Review’ readers, but Britain is over. There is no way back. Last week the very idea of Britain as outgoing, welcoming, doing the right thing, looking after the most vulnerable and being driven by a sense of humanity, was not only trashed but finally and fatally died.

All of this requires that we get real about the debate here and recognise that we need to be tolerant, serious and embrace detail and facts, not faith and assertion. Unless the UK does an about turn on Brexit and Scotland, indyref2 is inevitable. The only issue will be timing and context. Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish Independence has to move with the times

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 1st 2017

Scotland has in recent times liked to see itself as progressive, democratic and European. What’s so special about that you might think? A bit like apple pie and being kind to animals. But these undoubtedly mainstream values were rightly seen as increasingly at odds with the direction of the UK in the last few decades. The UK wasn’t any of these things and this has become even more pronounced and obvious post-Brexit vote.

The Scottish case for these three qualities in 2014 was about something more than their individual characteristics. Instead, they weaved together into a story about Scotland as a modern nation – unlike the seemingly backward, reactionary UK – and presented a picture of a normal country which aspired to be part of the European mainstream. All of this suggested that independence was the natural state of affairs, the direction of travel and the future – whereas the UK was the problem and the past.

However, it was even clear in the midst of the 2014 campaign that there was a problem with these aspirations. Scotland had come to them late in the day of their development. Thus, we aspired to be ‘progressive’ and social democratic, when this tradition has been in retreat and crisis for decades, including within the Nordics. Read the rest of this entry »

Despite Trump and Brexit there are still Reasons to be Cheerful

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 26th 2017

A haunting refrain echoes around the globe. The world, many emphatically say, has gone to pot what with Trump, Brexit, terrorism, ISIS, the march of the far right, fake news, alternative facts and more.

This miserablist take on modern times has a familiar refrain in Britain. It states that the country has gone in entirely the wrong direction these last 30 to 40 years. ‘Margaret Thatcher / poll tax / Tony Blair / Iraq war’ has become a spellbinding, intoxicating description of recent British history for many.

These appear dark times. There are numerous threats and challenges. When the British public were asked in 2015 if the world was getting better or worse, 71% answered worse, a mere 5% better, with 18% saying it hasn’t changed. Similar findings can be found in the US and most Western countries.

Then there is the Trump phenomenon that isn’t going well. However, it isn’t clear how much of a political black swan he is, compared to a potential harbinger of a dystopian future. But even in the week after the ascendancy of Trump to the US Presidency, everything isn’t falling apart whether globally or in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »