Posts Tagged ‘British Nationalism’

The Problem with Britain and Why It Can’t Be Tidily Put Back Together

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 14th 2016

Britain throughout its history has had a reputation for stability and security.

This after all was one of the main clarion calls in the indyref and, more recently, the Brexit vote, but this has always been a bit of a myth and is now increasingly fictitious.

In the European referendum and its aftermath, much of the discussion that occurred repeatedly – supposedly about the country, its challenges and future – wasn’t actually about the UK, but instead about England.

This has become the way the country is presented by its elites. One glaring example of this was the previous week’s BBC post-vote analysis, ‘Brexit: The Battle for Britain’ which had lots to commend it. Politicians were candid, telling stories about decisions – and about each other. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Arise Now and Be a Nation Again’: The neverending story of Scotland’s history

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 23rd 2016

Tom Devine has been a huge intellectual influence in Scotland in recent decades, having made major and thoughtful contributions to many important historical and contemporary debates.

His latest work, ‘Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present’ is part a summary of his previous research, ‘The Scottish Nation’ and his work on Scotland’s Empire, seen through the prism of Scotland’s place and influence in the union.

This descriptive, wide-ranging book covers not only over 300 years of Scottish history, but huge changes, the rise and fall of ideas and powerful forces, along with this nation’s place in a wider context: most critically, its relationship with England, but also with its European neighbours, and Empire and Commonwealth. Devine, for much of this story has a real way of telling this, while giving a place for people, traditions and the many complexities involved.

Devine tells the story well of the Scotland pre and post-union, and the difficult dilemmas and competing pressures that parliamentarians and leaders had to weight up. There is a sense of balance and geo-political awareness for the Scotland of immediately before and the years after 1707, and the issues of Scottish autonomy in the union, London’s view of Scotland, the Scottish need for access to greater trade opportunities, the running sore of taxes and duties and the contradictory relationship between Jacobinism and the union alongside the role of Presbyterianism, which puts the 1715 and 1745 risings in proper context. Read the rest of this entry »

The Wider Syria Debate: Challenging Britain’s ‘Empire of the Mind’

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, December 6th 2015

Britain is off to war again. The parliamentary debate did not live up to the billing. Cameron and Corbyn underperformed. Hilary Benn stole the show and headlines.

Great rhetorical moment this was not. This wasn’t of the quality of 1939 and the outbreak of World War Two, 1940 and the resignation of Chamberlain as PM, Suez and Anthony Eden comparing the Egyptian leader Nasser to Hitler and Mussolini, or even more recently, the Falklands war, when at the outset Margaret Thatcher’s political fate hung in the balance.

This was a diminished debate reflecting Britain’s unsure, nervous position and status. The UK armed forces are at their smallest in decades. There was the shadow of Iraq – constantly referenced throughout the parliamentary debate. Cameron talked of ‘past mistakes’ and Corbyn of ‘the spectre of Iraq’. None of this was helped by the long drawn out process and non-publication of the Chilcot inquiry into the lessons from the Iraq debacle. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for an Independence of the Scottish Mind

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 9th 2015

A second independence may be off the agenda of SNP conference for now, but Alex Salmond regards it as ‘inevitable’.

Such are the pressures and tensions of success. Where do you take a movement which came close to winning independence last September? How do you balance pragmatic and idealist hopes? What do you after the SNP ‘tartan tsunami’ of May this year which carried nearly all before it – and, when your opponents are so weak and disorientated?

There is talk in places of a second referendum sooner rather than later – of the SNP returning to it in 2016, or of a conditional clause in next year’s SNP manifesto predicated on a EU withdrawal vote in England which clashes with Scotland’s popular will.

These are tumultuous times. First, despite the referendum result, the ‘idea’ of independence won the debate last year – something very different from the SNP’s actual offer. Second, the SNP have dominated and defined the post-indyref environment and transition from Salmond to Sturgeon. They have done so by continuing the ‘Big Tent’ politics which have served them so well. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland, the Clash of Two Nationalisms and ‘the Children of the Echo’

Gerry Hassan

New Statesman, April 7th 2015

Scotland has always had a reputation for tempestuous disagreements – for fighting and flyting. Power, passion, tribalism and men staying in pubs for long hours drinking and insulting each other are long-standing notions.

Last Saturday I went to Glasgow Citizen’s Theatre to see David Hare’s ‘The Absence of War’ set in the run-up to Neil Kinnock’s ill-fated campaign in the 1992 general election.

Watching it in the turmoil of the current election campaign, and on the day of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ story that claimed ‘Sturgeon’s secret backing for Cameron’, it made for the older centre-left audience a lot of contemporary sense.

In the period since the early 1990s, mainstream UK politics have become even more stage-managed and choreographed. Two decades ago Kinnock’s Labour Party’s obsession with its opponents, the Tories and Tory-supporting press, ended up giving their enemies strength that became a self-fulfilling prophecy. Read the rest of this entry »

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