Posts Tagged ‘Scottish civil society’

Scotland’s Constitution and the Strange Non-Death of ‘Civic Scotland’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 2nd 2014

Scotland is to have its own constitution. Two years exactly to the day that Scotland could become an independent nation, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement that many had long anticipated and suspected.

This was a significant moment with huge import, whatever the result of the independence referendum. It can be seen as confirmation of Scotland’s slow reassertion of itself as a distinct political community, but was also filled with all the usual tropes and references: ‘enshrining Scottish values’, the ‘sovereignty of the people’, and the evoking of a ‘Scottish Constitutional Convention’.

This revealing announcement seems to signify the strange non-death of ‘civic Scotland’ – that amorphous part of polite respectable society, first identified hanging around middle class, well-heeled parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow in the early 1980s, at least in the eyes of government. Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Living Together and the Art of Dying

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, January 22nd 2014

Sometimes it takes outside voices to reinforce what you already know. So it was with Fintan O’Toole and the second in the series of Glasgow School of Art-University of the West of Scotland ‘Cultures of Independence’ seminars.

O’Toole is author of the acclaimed books, ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘Enough is Enough’ (1), both wonderful and powerful counter blasts to the baloney and bubble of the Celtic Tiger and its excesses.

He is of no doubt that Scotland is at a hugely important point in its history and that this isn’t just a narrow conversation and debate about constitutions, political and legal processes, and flags north of the border. Instead, this is a debate with huge consequences for England, for the rest of the UK, and with even global ramifications. This has come at a point where the first two are in significant flux and uncertainty due to Europe, economic and social change and the leviathan that is labelled ‘globalisation’.

O’Toole believes that Scotland has already been changing in ways which are irreversible and unfathomable to parts of Scotland and to most (if not all) of the London political classes. The old Scotland is dying, and a very different one is emerging; and at the same time, even more uncomprehending to some, the old England and Britain is disappearing, the loss and bewilderment from which can be witnessed regularly in the columns and letters pages of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and the rise of Ukip. Read the rest of this entry »

The Emergence of ‘the Third Scotland’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 12th 2013

Two Scottish establishments facing one another – one the old Labour Scotland which has administered and dominated public life for the last 50 years; the other the newcomer on the block: the bright, shiny SNP establishment full of vigour and promise.

This is what lies behind the slugfest of the ‘Yes/No’ debate, its partisan adherents, and the simple, superficial presentation of this in large sections of the mainstream media.

Two weeks ago a piece I wrote for ‘Scottish Review’ outlined the nature of this non-debate and the two establishments Scotland idea. I subsequently began to think whether this was an accurate description of where we are, and whether the British establishment shouldn’t be counted, given they have an interest and voice in the whole thing. Then I came to the realisation that at least within Scotland, there was another emerging force different from the two camps.

This is what I would call ‘the third Scotland’. It is characterised by being mostly non-institutional, not part of ‘official Scotland’ and with a significant presence in social media. It also seems to represent a generational shift, with a whole swathe of politically literate twentysomething Scotland being involved in it. Read the rest of this entry »

Games with Shadows: Living in Thatcher’s Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, April 10th 2013

We live in Thatcher’s Britain, yet that statement is obvious, contentious and deeply divisive. And this is all the more true of Thatcher north of the border.

Thatcher is simultaneously both history and present day. You can hear this in the differing accounts on TV and radio; with conservative figures claiming she remade the modern world from knocking down the Berlin Wall and freeing Eastern Europe, to preventing a future ‘socialist Britain’; while elements of the left wail in pain and agony at how events have turned out and their inability to come to terms with the country and politics she created.

We live in an age as much shaped by Thatcher as the previous political era: the so-called ‘post-war consensus’, a phrase seldom used in that era, and only invoked at its fag end. The date of Thatcher entering office, 1979, is exactly halfway between 1945 and today. Therefore, we are 34 years from Thatcher’s first victory; and 34 years from then to Clement Attlee’s historic mandate. And given that there are detailed studies of ‘the post-war consensus’, we should be able to begin to do the same with Thatcherism, but instead we are still arguing over what it means. Read the rest of this entry »

What do we do when we talk (and don’t talk) about Power?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 9th 2013

The story of modern Scotland is an obvious one: we are a nation and a community, increasingly defined by these two terms and from this comes our sense of difference and identity.

Beyond that it begins to get complicated and contested; our prevailing account of ourselves is that we are centre-left, egalitarian, inclusive and radical, and the missing word in front of each of these is more; meaning more than England, which for many is the crucial ingredient.

All of the above contain elements of truth but they are also our modern myths, the stories we tell ourselves to understand who we are, which are part-fact, part-fiction, but which make us who we are. And to fully comprehend this we need to try and have some honest, reflective conversations about this, the nature of our public life, and the challenge of power, namely, who has it and who doesn’t, and how we understand it.

Let’s start with power. It is one of the central ingredients that makes the world go round. There are at least three versions of it in modern Scotland: hard power, intermediate power, and soft power. And for some reason we don’t want to talk too much about these in modern Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »