Posts Tagged ‘David Cameron’

We are One Scotland: Anatomy of a Referendum

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 24th 2014

It was a momentous moment in Scottish and British history. The Scottish independence referendum. It dominated Scottish and British airwaves in the last couple of weeks, and became a huge international story.

Nearly every single cliché has been dug up, used and then over-used to exhaustion. What then as the excitement, claim and counter-claim quieten down, is there left to say and do? Actually, there is quite a lot.

Let’s talk about the immediate reactions post-vote from the Scottish and British political classes. They both have so far let us down, speaking for their narrow interests and party advantage, with no one addressing wider concerns.

Take the SNP leadership. Five days after the vote neither Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon has reached out to the 55% or offered any words of congratulation, recognition or understanding. Both were conspicuous by their absence from the Church of Scotland service of reconciliation on Sunday. The three pro-union parties were all represented by their leaders; the SNP by John Swinney.

Then there is the Westminster political classes. From David Cameron’s first announcement on Friday morning at 7am, they have been out on political manoeuvres advancing and promoting narrow self-interests. Cameron in that morning address was conciliatory in tone and style, but in content, was ruthlessly and naked calculating, linking Scottish ‘devo max’ to the idea of English votes for English laws. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain is on Borrowed Time: The Future of Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, September 19th 2014

Scotland voted No to independence. In answer to the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 1,617,989 voted Yes (44.7%) and 2,001,926 voted No (55.3%) in a massively impressive turnout of 84.6%: the highest ever anywhere in the UK in post-war times.

The result, and campaign, will be rightly mulled over and analysed for years, but in the fast moving aftermath it is important to lay down some thoughts and calm-headed thinking. Scotland has changed and shifted in how it sees itself and its future, as a political community, society and nation. Crucially, how others in the rest of the UK and internationally see Scotland, has dramatically and permanently moved.

It has made and unmade political careers. Alex Salmond who brought the SNP to victory in 2007 and 2011 has resigned one day after the vote; Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the clear favourite to take over the leadership. David Cameron after facing the prospect of political defeat in the last few days, knew he was fighting for his very political life and that Tory plotters were out to get him. Despite the No victory there were continued Tory maneuverings, anger and lack of comprehension over the deep-seated crisis of the union.

The arc of this long campaign involved three distinct phases: the phony war from the election of the SNP as a majority government in May 2011; the slow boiling of November 2013 from when the Scottish Government’s White Paper on independence was published to August 2014; and the last hectic, frenetic, chaotic period leading up to the vote. 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 »

A Rare Moment of Wisdom at the Heart of British Democracy

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, August 31st 2013

Parliamentary debates about military intervention are often rightly solemn occasions. They carry the weight of history and memories of past triumphs and disasters.

The Syria debate this week had initially been downplayed by the Cameron government as it faced the realities of parliamentary arithmetic and the possibility of defeat. But this was historic, evoking past even more momentous debates, and opening a chapter in British foreign policy which could see military intervention in Syria without the UK.

The entire parliamentary debate on Syria was coloured with the shadow of Tony Blair and Iraq hanging over it. At times in the last week it seemed like Groundhog Day Britain replaying the tensions, controversies and even the same terminology as March 2003 over Iraq.

There was the veracity and claims of intelligence, the issue of legal advice from the Attorney General, the role of the United Nations, and parliamentary approval (or non-approval as it turned out). There was even the intervention of Tony Blair, making the case for war and democracy (the last of which extended to support for the Egyptian military coup). Read the rest of this entry »

What Kind of European and British Union is Emerging?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, May 18th 2013

Prague Spring. Two words which evoke a certain feeling, the hopes of a generation, European idealism and the past.

Today Europe could not be in a more different place and frame of mind, the brief optimism of 1968 and 1989 long gone.

All across the continent, European political, elite and civic conversations are underway about ‘whither Europe?’ and ‘what future for the eurozone?’

In the last two weeks I have participated in two of these, attending the Prague Press Forum and before that speaking to ministers, officials and advisers of the Irish Government in Dublin.

Europe is worried about itself, its future, the European project and Britain – with in many places Euro-realism falling over into a deep-seated pessimism. German broadcaster, Jurgen Kronig, believes part of the problem is the ambiguous nature of German leadership. Read the rest of this entry »