Posts Tagged ‘Devolution’

Scotland and the Politics of Change after Social Democracy

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 9th 2011

Scotland likes to see itself as a radical nation. An egalitarian country. A country of socialism and more latterly social democratic and progressive values. A nation which never voted for the Tories in large numbers in recent decades, didn’t like Mrs. Thatcher and didn’t buy into Thatcherism. A political community which has stood for timeless Scottish values of caring for the vulnerable, compassion and not buying into the certainties of the last few decades which have obsessed Westminster and Washington.

It is a powerful story and despite all the failings and shortcomings in contemporary Scotland – it is still one which a large part, maybe most of our political class, media and public discourse still buys into. Scotland has stood defiantly against the charms and bluster of Thatcherism and Blairite New Labour, and was shocked by the sad fag end of Gordon Brown’s premiership: not quite believing in him by the time he got the top job, but not quite being prepared to give up on him entirely either.

We need to ask if Scotland has told itself that it is this centre-left nation, anti-Tory, anti-New Labour – why has our politics not advanced this agenda in such a favourable climate? We have a Parliament with a host of political parties which profess to be social democratic, and a decade of significant public spending increases. This has been ideal conditions to test the strength of the thesis that Scotland is this proud, rich centre-left country. Read the rest of this entry »

After Devolution: How Do We Change Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 8th 2011

The last decade of Scotland has shown the limits of devolution and the power of the forces of caution and conservatism – despite our belief that we are radicals, rebels and challengers of orthodoxy.

There were several accounts of devolution, but the dominant, prevailing one was not about transforming Scottish society or a supposed ‘new politics’. Instead, it was about legitimising the existing vested interests and forces of institutional Scotland.

There have been many positives in the last decade: the effortless establishment of the Parliament, its widespread acceptance, and many changes in society which make us a more liberal, tolerant nation. Read the rest of this entry »

The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power, Edinburgh University Press, edited by Gerry Hassan.

Michael Gardiner

Perspectives, Winter 2011

This collection is conceived in large part as a response to a perceived need to advance on the only major previous history of the Scottish National Party, Peter Lynch’s solo-written 2002 book. And although the comparison is made unfair by rapid advances in the field during devolution, this is an incomparably more comprehensive and sophisticated account. Somewhat interdisciplinary, it mixes Institute of Governance-style tabulated sociological breakdowns with the kind of critical analysis which Hassan rightly claims has been missing from accounts over-reliant on Party sources. The ambition is bold, and, despite some contradiction between chapters and a slight absence of cultural-theoretical input, this ambition is fulfilled abundantly. The editor has long been at the forefront of this competitive field of commentary, and here has collected some of the most celebrated and interesting specialists in the field. Every contribution is erudite, some rivetingly so; all are highly historically informed and politically subtle, and the whole points to a groundbreaking understanding of the implications of the SNP’s various phases of presence.

This type of publication is always time-sensitive, and this collection arrives at a particularly tricky time after the 2007 SNP minority victory but before the election of the 2010 UK coalition, and also shows a slight gap between chapters in terms of how much account they take of the 2008 financial crisis – though this is editorially well evened out by Hassan and the historical sophistication of the book is untainted. Avoiding becoming sucked in to a British history in which Thatcherism is central, the collection is more even, eloquent for example on the party’s parliamentary golden era, the 1974–79 period – and James Mitchell in particular debunks the idea that this was primarily oil-driven. Rather, there is more of a sense of Labour’s mixed record on addressing (and managing) the urban Scottish working class, and the fading fortunes of the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Devolution, Unionism and Independence: Nick Pearce Replies

Nick Pearce

Open Democracy, February 16th 2011

Dear Gerry,

Once again, thanks for your reply. I found it very stimulating. Here are some points by way of response:

1. A small clarification: by “unionist project” I simply meant that, in fact and law, Scotland’s Parliament remains within the United Kingdom, and was designed as devolution of power within the union. The devolution project is unionist, therefore, even if its parents had a range of perspectives, including nationalist ones.

2. I think if you want to claim that the “primary account of devolution” was about a governing mindset and a practice of politics which span a number of parties and go beyond formal politics into the character of the state, you should not use the phrase “legitimising the Labour state and nomenklatura” to describe it. It is either about Labour, its people and statecraft, or it is something else. Incidentally, you then go onto say that the fact that Labour has shared or lost power doesn’t defeat your argument by reverting back to an account of Labour politics, which I think proves my point, not yours. Read the rest of this entry »

Time for Next Step on SNP’s Journey

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, January 14th 2011

Scotland has experienced an interesting experiment. Four years of the first ever SNP administration, the first ever Scottish Government committed to independence. Now is surely an appropriate time to assess how much this has changed the SNP and Scotland and what the prospects for future change are?

This has been a decent administration, one that in many areas has had or attempted to articulate the right instincts on a range of economic, social and cultural matters. It has felt like Scotland’s Government, our national and international voice.

At the same time it has not been a transformational government. It has been one of caution and timidity, a government born of the Scottish character, culture and institutional life. Read the rest of this entry »