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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Devolution’

Twenty years on maybe it is time to move on from devolution

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 13th 2017

Twenty years ago this week Scotland held a referendum and voted decisively for a Scottish Parliament and for it to have tax-raising powers. This anniversary provides an opportunity to look back and assess what the last twenty years has meant – measuring it against expectations, and the state of the nation.

It has also provided an excuse for some elements in the mainstream media to dust down the insults and attempt to trash the reputation of the Scottish Parliament and the devolution years.

The ‘Scottish Daily Express’ front page declared emphatically ‘Devolution ‘a waste of time’: Life no better for Scots, says poll’. If that wasn’t black and white enough for you, the ‘Scottish Daily Mail’ offered ‘Devolution ‘a failure’’. For the record, neither paper contained the afore-mentioned quotes in the pieces which followed. Jonathan Brocklebank in the ‘Mail’ called the Parliament: ‘The Mother of All White Elephants’, while Jason Allardyce in the ‘Sunday Times Scotland’ stated ‘Devolution has been a dud, say most Scots.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Holyrood has given Scotland independence of the mind

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian, September 11th 2017

Twenty years ago today Scotland voted 3:1 for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. It was clear the old Westminster system of governing Scotland was discredited. Voters recognised it was undemocratic, and produced bad politics and legislation. The case for change had become a consensus – ‘the settled will’ in John Smith’s description – that the referendum merely and validated.

Twenty years later devolution has been a success. There are no serious calls for the Scottish Parliament to be abolished or for a return of direct rule from Westminster. Ruth Davidson and the Tories long ago made their peace. The late Tam Dalyell was the last expression of such a politics.

The Scottish public now views the Scottish Parliament, rather than Westminster, as the most important political institution. Irrespective of formal independence, Scotland already has an informal independence of the mind in how it talks, thinks and acts. Read the rest of this entry »

How do we have a Genuine People’s Democracy?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 25th 2015

It was UK Democracy Day last week – 800 years since Magna Carta. And on the same day of the announcement that the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq war would not be published until after the May general election – hardly an advert for British democracy.

Then it was the debate about the on-off TV election debates. Was Cameron or Miliband more chicken? Will the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens finally get their place on the UK platform?

There was also the publication of draft legislation deriving from the recent Smith Commission, identifying more promised devolved powers to Scotland: income tax, some welfare powers, and, not insubstantial, areas such as the Crown Estate.

The usual party politicking broke out. David Cameron said this would result in one of the most powerful devolved institutions in the world. Margaret Curran spoke of a ‘Powerhouse Parliament’. Pro-union politicians claimed that the ‘Vow’ had been delivered. Read the rest of this entry »

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 Missing Voices of Public Life and How We Create a Different Scotland

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 9th 2013

To many of the tribes and partisans who inhabit our public life, all that matters is the contest and defeating their opponents. Democracy and politics in this mindset are in fine working order, beyond the difficulty of trying to get your own way!

In reality, Scottish democracy barely exists in any meaningful sense. The 1707 settlement guaranteed the autonomy of ‘the holy trinity’ of Kirk, education and law, giving prominence to these institutional identities, which came to the fore as government and its affairs of state went south.

Then distinctive Scottish administration from Victorian times began to expand and in so doing another definition was added: that of the dynamic, managerial do-er. This was an apolitical, often bureaucratic identity: the world of Lord Reith, Walter Elliot and Tom Johnston.

So it remained until the arrival of the SNP shook things up in the 1960s, and then finally the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. To some this has democratised and nornalised Scotland, but it has left underneath and around the Parliament the same institutions and networks running most things. Read the rest of this entry »

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