Posts Tagged ‘Open Democracy’

What do we do we do about the United Kingdom? And Why Federalism isn’t the Answer

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, July 4th 2014

In the last few weeks political debate has become filled with talk of the possibility of a federal United Kingdom.

This has come not surprisingly exclusively from pro-union voices. There was Tory MSP Murdo Fraser’s recent thoughtful speech, David Torrance’s short book on British wide federalism, and even former Prime Minister Gordon Brown mulling over the subject.

Murdo Fraser in his Reform Scotland talk said that ‘federalism within the UK, if it were workable and could be achieved, is a solution which could unite both unionists and nationalists, and provide a secure framework for the future’. David Torrance in a ‘Herald’ piece after Fraser’s intervention, cited former Labour MP and academic David Marquand commenting, ‘Does the UK become a federal state, or does it break up?’. Even Gordon Brown has refound his sense of radical constitutionalism, contemplating a written constitution and federalism in all but name.

These developments should be applauded and welcomed as they are trying to deal with some of the challenges of the modern world and the UK, and show a degree of open-mindedness and people being prepared to reconsider previous positions. They should be taken seriously and examined, asking what issues and concerns are they addressing, what are they not addressing, and what are their over-riding motivations? 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 »

The Crisis of Grangemouth and What It Says About Scotland and Britain

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, November 1st 2013

The Grangemouth story has been a modern parable – of the state of industrial relations, the interests of the media, and the condition of Scottish and UK politics – their motivations, silences and prejudices.

There has been much comment and political activity north of the border (not all of it, as we will see below, constructive). In the Westminster bubble which so dominates and distorts English politics, there have been either ideologically offensive and ignorant comments, or more widely, near-complete political inactivity, disinterest and the crashing sounds of silence.

First though, let’s try and dismiss the notion that Grangemouth can be simply seen through the prism of capital/labour relations, tempting though it is. Robin McAlpine’s persuasive piece last week explored part of this, but didn’t touch upon the wider canvas (1). We don’t gain thirty years into neo-liberalism’s onslaught by returning to the old left comfort blankets of creating pantomime villains of a big bad boss class, and failing to recognise the inadequacies of other actors – trade unions, Labour and the Westminster political classes. Read the rest of this entry »

Yes to a Different Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, September 18th 2013

One year to the Scottish independence referendum.

A historic milestone. A host of mainstream media programmes, discussions and items yesterday and today are marking it.

One of the most important was ‘Newsnight’s’ Berwick upon Tweed programme on Tuesday broadcast to a British wide audience which looked as though it was filmed in the ‘Great British Bake Off’ tent!

The programme was revealing and fascinating, from Kirsty Wark’s conspicuous slips showing her bias, to Margaret Curran, Shadow Secretary of State’s constant reciting of the word ‘separation’ in her opening remarks. But at significant points the discussion pointed towards a tone and content which is seldom present in most mainstream media discussions – namely, the opening up of a space exploring the notion of a different Scotland and how this could manifest itself. Read the rest of this entry »

Nigel Farage, the Scottish Debate and the Future of Europe

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, May 19th 2013

This is an age of uncertainty, crisis and doubt. The UK is experiencing multiple crises: political, constitutional and economic, of the UK in Europe and of Europe itself as an idea and project. And underneath all of this is a deep-seated Western fear, of loss of confidence in Western modernity and anxiety about the future.

The lack of sureness now being displayed in Britain’s political elites is one manifestation, as is the rise of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. The Westminster village has been talking of little else since UKIP burst through in the English local elections winning 23% of the vote, humiliating the mainstream parties.

Cut then this week to the beautiful setting of Edinburgh’s High Street, its castle at one end, Holyrood Palace at the other, tartan tourist tat in between. This was the improbable setting for Nigel Farage’s northern sojourn and face off with Radical Independence supporters.

Insults flew back and forth; the protestors called Farage ‘racist scum’; he retorted by calling them ‘fascist scum’ and then attempted to taint the broad church of Scottish nationalism and the SNP by claiming the former had a ‘fascist side’; the next day in a combative interview on ‘BBC Radio Scotland’ Farage accused the interviewer David Miller of the same ‘hatred’ as the protestors and hung up (1). Read the rest of this entry »