Posts Tagged ‘British politics’
Time for a Bolder Scotland: The Seven Stories of Scottish Independence
The National, November 30th 2016
We are living through unprecedented times of change and uncertainty.
The words and phrases we use can barely keep up – ‘post-truth politics’, ‘fake news’, ‘alt-right’, the vacuity of ‘Brexit means Brexit’, and the debate on whether Trump is a ‘fascist’ or not. Language itself is struggling to convey and understand these times.
This is true in Britain and Scotland. ‘The Economist’ magazine, in its review of the year and assessments of next year, when talking of Brexit observed that ‘When a building is demolished, a brief calm usually prevails at first.’ We are at the moment in the calm before the almighty storm – one which when it hits will bring walls tumbling down and from which no defences will be fully effective.
There is a widespread assumption in the Westminster village that, with all this impending chaos, Scotland and the cause of independence is increasingly boxed in by Brexit, the constraints of EU disengagement, and powerful economic forces. They seem to misinterpret the stillness north and south of the border as a permanent calm, alongside the slender basis on which Scots voted to remain in the union in 2014: not understanding that its pragmatism could quickly evaporate given the potential future direction of Britain. Read the rest of this entry »
Tom Nairn’s Break-up of Britain turns 40 and is as relevant as ever
The National, November 24th 2016
Few books about politics stand the test of time like Tom Nairn’s The Break-up of Britain.
Next year will see its 40th anniversary. Originally published during the Queen’s Jubilee of 1977, the book offered a blistering counterblast to the then official commemorations – and self-congratulation of political and media elites who used the occasion to reflect on the wonders of the British way of doing things.
The UK has undergone dramatic change since then. Superficially in form and appearance it still looks similar. But that belies realities. Economic and social change has produced a bitterly divided country of self-obsessed, triumphalist winners, and millions of losers.
There has been devolution to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, as well as restoration of London governance, but the political centre hasn’t reformed. Instead, it has got worse: with power more centralised in the Prime Minister and no process of democratisation.
Nairn’s original thesis is so far reaching and prescient that it has often been misunderstood and misrepresented. The opening words of Break-up state: ‘Only a few years ago, the break-up of Britain was almost inconceivable’, but this was changing then, and is now mainstream today. Read the rest of this entry »
The UK as we know it can’t survive Brexit and Trump
The Guardian, November 17th 2016
The United Kingdom’s sense of itself and place in the world is more in question now than it was before Donald Trump’s election. It was already facing the precarious process of Brexit that has destabilised the nature of fifty years plus of UK foreign policy and international alliances.
All of this should be a moment for opposition but Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour are missing in action, focusing on internal battles, and letting the struggle with the Tories slip through their fingers. Whatever the views of Corbyn as a leader, this has and is costing the UK dear, and has long-term damaging consequences.
One of these is that the UK – as currently composed – has very little future. To compound the international and national challenges the UK faces, has to be added one based on the territorial dimensions of the state, the failure of the political centre to understand this, and the decline of any popular account of unionism which tells a story about the future of the UK. Read the rest of this entry »
Scotland the Bold: Making the Case for a Radical Scotland
Sunday Herald, November 6th 2016
This weekend I attended a Donald Trump campaign rally in New Hampshire. It was a surreal experience – of a Presidential candidate who isn’t a professional politician, who has a limited conventional manifesto, and is running on what amounts to populist instinct and anger.
Win or lose, this offer has resonated with a sizeable audience of dissatisfied people who are looking for change and who believe that Trump rather than Hillary Clinton best provides it. Last week I was at a Clinton-Elizabeth Warren rally – the one where Warren made her ‘nasty women’ speech, and apart from that, there was much less excitement and energy than follows Trump.
Something is clearly wrong with business-as-usual politics. People across the developed world are looking for new advocates – often of a populist and unattractive kind – from Trump to Farage, from Le Pen to Hungary’s Viktor Orbán.
The UK and Scotland isn’t immune to this. The UK faces multiple crises – economic, financial, geo-political. The ‘British economic miracle’ has been shown to be nothing but a mirage, but still hypnotises the establishment. Even more seriously, the Brexit vote undermines British post-war foreign policy, and leaves the country facing its most profound set of international challenges since Munich and appeasement. Read the rest of this entry »
The SNP has got us where we are, but the SNP on its own isn’t enough in the future
Bella Caledonia, October 12th 2016
The SNP have played a huge role in getting us to where we are today. They are central to where Scotland goes in the future – but they on their own are not enough.
Without the SNP there is significant doubt that we would ever have got a Scottish Parliament. It is true that Labour legislated for it, but they were first brought back to devolution in the 1970s by the electoral threat of the SNP. Without the SNP there would have been no indyref1, and without them there will be no indyref2.
Therefore Scottish politics owes a great deal of gratitude to the SNP. Just for one second imagine politics over the last 40 years without the SNP. All Scotland would have available to show any dissatisfaction with Westminster and desire for self-government would have been to vote Labour or Lib Dem (with the Greens under FPTP remaining a minuscule force, and without the SNP there being no guarantee Labour reverted to its earlier home rule stance).
All of the above is increasingly important as the SNP prepare to meet for its Annual Conference in Glasgow, but it is also true that the SNP on their own are not enough. And blind loyalty to one party is different from passionate support for ‘the cause’ and, even at times, counter-productive. The SNP contributed hugely to getting us where we are. But they are not enough to take Scotland to the next stage: winning an indyref and making the politics of a new independent state. Read the rest of this entry »