Posts Tagged ‘British Nationalism’

‘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 »

The disunited Kingdom and the confusion in Britain’s political elites

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, April 5th 2015

Scotland is still making the news. The tartan tsunami that is the SNP surge shows little to no sign of abating as election day approaches.

Beyond Scotland’s shores the UK and international media are making frequent references to the debate north of the border. Strangely some of this coverage – mostly in London based outlets – is even more ill-informed and inaccurate than was seen during the indyref. This is itself no mean feat.

Then most neutral and pro-union opinion thought No would win. They had two years to understand and come to terms with the indyref debate, knew its date from a distance and some of the contours of the environment.

After the indyref things were meant to return to the status quo. Normal service would be resumed. Scotland anchored into the union anew would do its usual thing and return a bloc of 40 or so mostly non-descript Labour representatives to Westminster. The SNP after its rebuttal in the referendum would slowly see the shine wear off their credentials in government as fiscal realities and the constraints of devolution took their toil. Read the rest of this entry »

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