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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Culture’

Could Scotland really be reduced to the status of a region?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 18th 2017

When did present day Scotland begin? Not the ‘modern’ Scotland of post-war times, or the upside and then downside of Labour Scotland. But the land that we visibly live in today – shaped by the ghosts of industries long gone and the sins and excesses of Thatcher and Blair.

The conventional answer is 1979: the ‘Year Zero’ of Scottish sensibilities when, for many, the world was turned upside down with election of the Thatcher Government and the stalled first devolution referendum.

However, that is the view in retrospect. Thatcher didn’t unambiguously represent Thatcherism in 1979. Interestingly, most of Scotland’s non-Tory politicians and mainstream media didn’t represent it then the way we do now. For example ‘The Herald’ and ‘The Scotsman’ choose to interpret Thatcher’s first UK victory not in terms of the Scottish national dimension, but in British conventional left and right terms (neither of which were then as wedded to the constitutional debate as now).

In reality present day Scotland started somewhere between 1983 and 1987 – between the second Thatcher victory, the invention of the poll tax in 1985-86, and the third Thatcher victory in 1987: ‘the Doomsday scenario’ as it was called (meaning Scotland voted more Labour, but got a Tory Government based on English votes). Read the rest of this entry »

The Continuing Scottish Revolution: Time to Tell New Stories of Scotland

Scottish Review, January 10th 2017

Gerry Hassan

It has been an unprecedented political year, and 2017 will also be full of high drama – globally, across Europe, in the UK, and nearer to home in Scotland.

Politics isn’t everything. Just as important is culture – a word used and over-used, seemingly about everything and everywhere, but difficult, and sometimes impossible to pin down and define.

Culture when we forensically examine it can mean so many things. It can describe individual growth and enrichment. It can be about a group or community’s way of life. It expresses the activities of consuming culture. And finally, it is also used to define the way groups and organisations act and the codes and practices which shape them.

The many facets of culture and the propensity not to define then can be seen in our nation. We have a politics which is meant to be all-encompassing, but often evades detail and substance. Reinforcing this is a widespread characteristic of not wanting to define Scottish culture – for fear of ghettoising and marginalising. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time for Dangerous Talk: Jaytalking Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 15th 2016

These are strange times. We are told everyday in every way by numerous experts and talking heads that this is an age of unprecedented change, uncertainty and flux. That nothing can be taken for granted.

Yet this is also an age of great conformity and conservatism; not only in mainstream politics but in large acres of what passes for popular culture – from music to novels, theatre, comedy, TV and visual arts.

Scotland fits into this pattern rather well. It has shaken the UK to near breaking point and tells itself continually it is social democratic and egalitarian, while being rather conservative in how it goes about this as well as many other things.

Our country is littered with examples of our collective conformity and lack of interest in substantive change – let alone any real radicalism. And what is telling is our lack of interest or curiosity in these discrepancies – lest they disrupt our telling ourselves how unique we are.

If Scotland were this place of radicalism wouldn’t there be a land filled with lots of examples of radicalism? Of pioneering legislation, examples of social change, and people and communities empowered? Would there not have been a shake up of one of the ultimate closed shops: the Scottish legal establishment? Or the education community? Or even senior health consultants? Public sector reform is a phrase left at the border. Read the rest of this entry »

Every Year When the World Comes to Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 28th 2016

At the end of every summer Edinburgh becomes a global village – walking down any street or lane entails coming across numerous nationalities, languages and different cultures.

Streets are packed with tourists, sightseers, and cultural backpackers; there are performances in every nook and cranny of the city centre, and all sorts of impromptu and free shows going on all around.

All of this puts Edinburgh and Scotland on the cultural map unlike anything else. It generates large amounts of revenue for the city and wider – estimated to be around £313 million – and even brings parts of London and Oxbridge society on rare excursions north of the border. Read the rest of this entry »

Does Glasgow have a chip on the shoulder?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 1st 2016

Glasgow is not Scotland. For most of its history it has seen itself as bigger than the nation that hosts it – looking out to Transatlantic trade and commerce routes, and linked to the world through shipbuilding and human connections.

Since the early 19th century Glasgow has seen itself as a ‘Big City’ – even though it is now half the size it was at its peak, in the mid-1950s. This bigness is about swagger, attitude (both good and bad), and having a sense of importance. It isn’t an accident that outside of London the most written about and talked about UK city is Glasgow – a veritable ‘Glasgow industry’.

‘No other city in Britain carries the same resonances, the same baggage of expectations and preconceptions’, wrote travel writer Charles Jennings about Glasgow. That has a good side in the attachment and pride people feel for the place, but also a darker one where there is a constant feeling of being slighted, of not having your due place acknowledged, or being at the end of middle class conspiracies from high heid yins in Edinburgh or perfidious Albion. Read the rest of this entry »

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