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Posts Tagged ‘British Society’

Is it time to think of independence for London?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 24th 2017

Every day in so many ways the UK becomes more obviously divided and fragmented. The current UK general election campaign showcases this – with the absence of any real national UK politics beyond the theatre of Westminster with instead numerous national and sub-national debates.

There are, along with Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, several different Englands. And then there is the special case of London. As the capital of England and the UK, London is an island apart from the rest of us. It is a world city, a global magnet and an international force – economically, socially, culturally.

I spent the last weekend in London with friends. Experiencing the city is to reflect on its dynamism and variety, but also on how utterly different it is from the rest of the country. And this difference increasingly matters – both for how London sees itself and the rest of us, and obviously for the non-London population of the UK.

London is one of the drivers of the UK economy. The Greater London area contains over 8.6 million people – 12.5% of the UK population – while making up 22% of UK GDP. Its wealth dominates the UK economy. Inner London’s GDP per person in 2010 was 328% the EU average, compared to 70% in west Wales – the biggest gap in any EU state. Read the rest of this entry »

MY FAVOURITE BOOKS OF 2015

December 24th 2015

NEW BOOKS:

SCOTLAND

Project Fear: How an Unlikely Alliance left a Kingdom United but a Country Divided, Joe Pike, Biteback

A brilliant access all areas account of the chaos of the ‘Better Together’ campaign in the indyref. To think there was an even more Armageddon-ish‘Project Fear’!

Queer Voices in Post-War Scotland: Male Homosexuality, Religion and Society, Jeffrey Meek, Palgrave Macmillan

At long last a serious study of Scottish gay culture (focusing just on gay men) and in particular the period between Wolfenden (1957) and decriminalisation of male homosexuality in England and Wales (1967) and Scotland (1980).

The Spaces of Fiction: Voices from Scotland in a Post-Devolution Age, Marie-Odile Pittin-Hedon, Association for Scottish Literary Studies

French scholar turns her attention to fiction (after a study of Alasdair Gray) and finds a diffuse, diverse Scotland telling particular and universal stories.

Demanding Democracy: The Case for a Scottish Media, Christopher Silver, Word Power Books

Thoughtful, non-partisan exploration of public life in Scotland; good on context, history and traditions, with suggestions for change. And produced by the wonderful Word Power Books in Edinburgh – a bookshop, an imprint and an inspiration. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland’s Peaceful Revolution and the End of the Old Britain

Gerry Hassan

The Hindu, May 16th 2015

Britain feels and looks very different now from only a week ago.

The general election threw up many surprises – the re-election of a majority Conservative Government, the scale of the Scottish National Party (SNP) landslide, and Scotland and England pointing in completely opposite political directions.

The SNP won 56 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies, reducing the dominant Labour Party north of the border from 41 seats at the previous election to a single seat. A whole host of luminaries lost their seats including Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander and Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran. Read the rest of this entry »

When Britannia Ruled the Waves

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 22nd 2014

The act of sailing has long been one of the ways humans have tested themselves, measuring their endurance, reflecting on life and its meaning, from Ernest Hemingway to Jonathan Raban’s ‘Coasting’, an account of sailing round Britain at the time of the Falklands war.

The experience of cruising in pleasure boats, ocean liners and luxury ships is a very different world. One filled with images of a mix of ‘Casino Royale’ and Monte Carlo stereotypes, rich playboys, people gambling and endless hedonism.

The reality is a bit different in what is a multi-billion pound industry which caters for all sorts of different interests and incomes. This was illustrated by my recent ten day cruise on the Fred. Olsen ship the MS Black Watch which sailed from North Shields across the North Sea to the Baltic, stopping off in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo, and sailing up the Kiel Canal.

The Black Watch first came into service in 1972 and like all Olsen liners is a middle sized ship compared to the behemoths being built for the ever opulent who wish to maintain their lifestyle on the seas. Captained by Finnish Mikael Degerlund, the ship had 765 passengers from nine countries, most from the UK, and 340 crew from eighteen countries. Read the rest of this entry »

The Battle for Britain and Daring to Believe We Can Do Better

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, January 11th 2014

In the last couple of weeks, two visions of Britain have been articulated. Both are clear, concise, utterly sure of themselves and the justice of their case, and both are equally partial.

One is Tory MEP Daniel Hannan’s notion of a free floating, buccaneering, outward looking UK, which would slip its moorings with the European Union and reposition itself in new waters – mixing the English speaking world of the Anglosphere with re-establishing old connections with the Commonwealth and new ones with emerging nations.

The other is academic Linda Colley’s project to rejuvenate Britishness – the subject of her BBC Radio 4 series and book. Her solution is a grand design project to rejuvenate the union: an English Parliament outside London, written constitution and federalism.

These are both old stories told for new times. One is the vision of radical Tories and the other of enlightened liberal reform. Both are blindsided on the issues dear to the other – Hannan doesn’t touch the internal imbalances of power and wealth in the UK; Colley only mentions in passing the Euro crises and clearly thinks that Euroscepticism is a mindset of the deranged. Read the rest of this entry »