Posts Tagged ‘British politics’

George Robertson and the Scots’ Crisis of Unionism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 16th 2014

Something seems to be seriously wrong in the pro-union campaign, ‘Better Together’.

They may still be ahead in the polls, but the gap has narrowed significantly. Two years of dire warnings about the perils of ‘separatism’ and ‘tearing Scotland out the United Kingdom’ have only exposed the threadbare, tetchy character of the pro-union argument so far.

In November last year ‘The Economist’ declared the referendum won for the union; now it reflects on the ‘teflon’ qualities of Scottish nationalism, and the incessant ‘pessimism’ of the pro-union side. Beyond George Robertson’s dire warnings of ‘cataclysmic’ geo-political consequences and ‘the forces of darkness’ a sea change is happening in Scotland which will have an impact long after the referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

The Land of the Living Dead: Jeremy Paxman and Max Hasting’s Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 19th 2014

Years ago I believed in Britain; in its future and some of its stories, values and institutions.

I thought that those which did not match modern democratic times, could be changed. This was the beauty of Britain and its radical currents.

Even as a teenager I knew there was some element of make belief and fantasy in this. The mythical stories of Britain as the land of liberty, rule of law and democracy jarred with too many of the facts.

Such Whig accounts have grown increasingly threadbare in recent decades. Yet they still have their last true believers in the world of Tory Eurosceptics and in unreconstructed parts of the Labour Party. Read the rest of this entry »

The Battle for Britain and Why Alex Salmond and Independence Has Already Won

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, February 7th 2014

This year is witnessing several battles for Britain – of numerous anniversaries of past military triumphs, of the Scottish independence referendum, and the rising tide of the Tory Party’s continued obsession with Europe.

All of these are inter-related in the long-term, almost existential, crisis of what Britain is, what is it for, what kind of society and values it represents, and what kind of future it offers its people. This tumultuous moment we now find ourselves in is one with many layers: economic, social, democratic, and even geo-political (in where Britain aspires to ally itself internationally).

The Scottish independence referendum is fascinating and not a narrow or arid constitutional debate, but influenced by these wider concerns. Revealingly, to most of the London political classes it is seen as marginal, disconnected from their concerns, of episodic interest, and discounted (as they already assess they have won), as noted by Alex Massie in his front cover piece in this week’s ‘Spectator’ (1). Read the rest of this entry »

The Empathy Gap: Divided Scotland and the Problem of Fantasyland Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 29th 2014

It has become part of the commonsense account of the independence campaign that there is a problem with some of the more vociferous, partisan supporters.

In one perspective, frequently spun in the mainstream media, this problem is predominantly, if not exclusively, about the ‘cybernat’ phenomenon. Numerous examples are brought out, from comedian Susan Calman facing invective for comments on independence, to incidents with Chris Hoy and Susan Boyle being verbally abused online.

Yet to pose the ‘cybernats’ as the sole problem, as Labour bigwigs such as George Robertson and George Foulkes do, is fundamentally disingenuous. Another serious issue is the way that mostly Labour figures describe independence and the SNP. Alistair Darling talked of independence as a ‘road to serfdom’, Gordon Brown of it leading to Scotland becoming the equivalent of a ‘British colony’, while Ian Davidson stated with confidence that the vote had already been won and all that was left was the simple act of ‘bayoneting the wounded’.

We can argue, as I would, that there is an imbalance in this. The ‘cybernats’ are mostly if not exclusively lone operatives typing away furiously into the night in their bedsits, whereas Darling, Brown and Davidson are elected public figures with the first two having global stature. They should know better, yet their comments above represent how a whole host of Labour politicians describe the independence cause, which tells something about their Manchean and deeply insecure view of the world. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland International: A Letter from Istanbul

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, January 25th 2014

Europe from its edges, corners and fuzzy borderlands looks and feels rather different than it does from elsewhere.

Here in Istanbul, the largest city in Turkey, Scotland’s debate and the UK’s never-ending turmoil with regard to its relationship with Europe, seems far removed.

Yet what is striking is that there are commonalities between these examples as I contemplate life looking at the shores of the Bosphorus – that historic meeting and clashing point of cultures, and the crossroads between Europe and Asia.

Scotland’s deliberations are about some fundamentals which would resonate in the bazaars of Istanbul: namely, geo-political possibilities. Or to put it less grandiosely, about how we want to position ourselves in the world, and who we want to ally ourselves with, aspire to be and identify with. Read the rest of this entry »