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Posts Tagged ‘Indyref2’

Stay Calm: The Country formerly known as the UK is Breaking Up

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 5th 2017

Sometimes years go by without domestic and international crises. Then like buses, a whole series of them come along at the same time to the extent that hardly anyone can keep up.

It is exhausting to keep up for citizens, the media and the participants directly involved. In the last week, the Scottish Parliament voted 69-59 to hold a second independence referendum, Theresa May finally triggered Article 50 for the UK to leave the EU, and the UK got involved in a bizarre spat with the Spanish Government over Gibraltar which showed that the UK authorities and Brexiteers have hardly been doing advance planning. Former Tory leader Michael Howard upped the ante invoking the Falklands war and making bellicose noises threatening the use of military force: remarks which met with the approval of Downing Street with no slap down, public or private, coming forth.

Scotland nearly feels serene compared to such hyperbole. There is the usual stand-off and attitude between the SNP and Scottish Greens and the Tories, Labour and Lib Dems. Some of this is now so familiar it has the feel of a set piece dance arrangement from a West End musical. Read the rest of this entry »

Imagine a Parallel Universe Scotland without the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 29th 2017

Nearly every adult in Scotland has an opinion and view on the SNP: the good, the bad, the positive, the negative and the indifferent.

The SNP have been a constant presence in public life at least since Winnie Ewing’s famous and oft-cited Hamilton by-election victory: a result which did much to bring into being the modern SNP and the contemporary Scotland we live in.

Yet, the SNP are now such a powerful force that it is hard to imagine that only two generations ago it wasn’t always so. In the 1955 general election, the Nationalists only stood two candidates, winning a total of 12,112 votes (0.5%) and there were discussions about winding up as a separate force. Nearly a decade later – in 1964, the party won only 64,044 votes (2.4%) and was still largely irrelevant in Scottish life.

What if the SNP springboard that really took effect in 1966-67 and culminating in Hamilton had never happened? Imagine a politics where the contemporary SNP never emerged as an electoral force, but remained forever at the margins. Exploring such a parallel universe Scotland gives a sense of what could have been, and an idea of what the SNP have contributed to in public life. Read the rest of this entry »

Ten Years on the SNP and Scottish nationalism require a different politics for the future

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 24th 2017

The SNP have been a breath of fresh air to Scotland. Fifty years ago this year the modern SNP emerged with the talismanic victory of Winnie Ewing at the Hamilton by-election, and Scotland was never quite the same again.

If you doubt this, think of a Scotland without the SNP. The only way Scots would be able to show their dissatisfaction with Westminster and difference from the rest of the UK would be to remain loyal to Labour. That would work (to an extent) under Tory UK Governments, but not quite when Labour was in power at Westminster.

The SNP in opposition and then in office have changed the parameters of Scottish politics. They have literally changed the name on the door to that of the Scottish Government – marking a profound shift from the dull administration of the previous titled Scottish Executive. They have altered the nature of the role of First Minister to being the national leader of the country. They have brought statecraft and competence to government. And they brought Scotland onto the international stage – first, with the release of al-Megrahi, and then more substantially, in the long campaign of the first indyref.

Ten years into office and with another indyref looking inevitable, this is an appropriate time to reflect, analyse and take stock on the record of the SNP and of wider Scottish nationalism. The former will be the focus of the forthcoming ‘A Nation Changed? The SNP and Scotland Ten Years On’, edited by myself and Simon Barrow, head of the think tank Ekklesia, which will be published in June. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the SNP and Independence Supporters

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 17th 2017

These are fast moving political times for Scotland. The events of the last week illustrate the accelerated fragmentation and disintegration of the UK as we know it.

But these are also times of high stakes and stand-offs, with the Scottish and UK Governments gaming and predicting the actions of the other. Monday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon took the UK Government by surprise and seized the centrestage of British politics – forcing the postponement of triggering Article 50. Theresa May’s most recent statement, declaring that ‘now is not the time’ for a referendum’ until the Brexit talks are completed, was predictable. Despite this, it would be ill-advised to underestimate May and the UK Government who, despite her personal inflexibility and lack of comprehension of modern Scotland, will play hard to keep Scotland in the union.

Similarly, while time works in favour of independence, it also has downsides. The SNP have been in office ten years, and with each passing year have more of a record to defend. Next time, the careful 2014 balancing act of being insurgent and incumbent will be much more difficult to pull off. And the SNP’s domestic political dominance (rather like the Tories in the UK) has costs: in that there is, across the SNP and Scottish Government, a tangible weakening in political antenna and sensitivity of how policies and stances appear to those outside the administration. Such a time of high-wire politics means that it is more urgent than ever to reflect, tell hard truths, and to institutionalise more effectively a deeper pluralist politics. Read the rest of this entry »

Indyref2 is coming but can we do better than two versions of Little Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 15th 2016

The ides of March 2017. One single day – Monday March 13th – will go down as an epic day in the fragmentation of the United Kingdom.

The Brexit Bill passed through all its stages in the Commons and Lords shorn of any extra commitments. Nicola Sturgeon announced the prospect of a second independence referendum. And the UK Government in response decided to shelve the triggering of Article 50 for two weeks.

That’s without mentioning what is happening in Northern Ireland as the once impregnable unionist majority sinks below the waves. Political commentator David Torrance reflecting on the state of the UK accurately observed that the UK was one ‘monumental constitutional clusterfuck’.

Every day the UK seems to be becoming increasingly like a ‘little Britain’ – a country getting more nasty, mean, xenophobic, insular, and lacking in any moral character or fibre. This doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon – with the rightwing Brexiteers oblivious to their narrow 52:48 victory on the back of a manifesto which didn’t amount to more than a proverbial back of a fag packet. Read the rest of this entry »

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