Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Independence’

When Britannia Ruled the Waves

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 22nd 2014

The act of sailing has long been one of the ways humans have tested themselves, measuring their endurance, reflecting on life and its meaning, from Ernest Hemingway to Jonathan Raban’s ‘Coasting’, an account of sailing round Britain at the time of the Falklands war.

The experience of cruising in pleasure boats, ocean liners and luxury ships is a very different world. One filled with images of a mix of ‘Casino Royale’ and Monte Carlo stereotypes, rich playboys, people gambling and endless hedonism.

The reality is a bit different in what is a multi-billion pound industry which caters for all sorts of different interests and incomes. This was illustrated by my recent ten day cruise on the Fred. Olsen ship the MS Black Watch which sailed from North Shields across the North Sea to the Baltic, stopping off in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo, and sailing up the Kiel Canal.

The Black Watch first came into service in 1972 and like all Olsen liners is a middle sized ship compared to the behemoths being built for the ever opulent who wish to maintain their lifestyle on the seas. Captained by Finnish Mikael Degerlund, the ship had 765 passengers from nine countries, most from the UK, and 340 crew from eighteen countries. Read the rest of this entry »

After the Spirit of 2014

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 1st 2014

It is now coming up for two weeks tomorrow since Scotland’s independence referendum.

The world moves on. The UK media’s attention has switched back to its usual tropes: Westminster parlour games and internal Tory and Labour machinations.

The UK Parliament was recalled, not as some expected it would be, to deal with the backwater of a Scottish Yes vote to independence, but the predictable act of the UK providing cover for US lead action, yet again, in Iraq. There was dignity and solemnity in the Commons debate, showing that the old battered, discredited chamber can still rise to the occasion – but Norway (1940), Suez (1956) or the Falklands (1982) debate this clearly wasn’t.

In Scotland, for many the campaign has not stopped. There is the huge increase in SNP membership (from just over 25,000 on September 18th to more than 72,000), along with proportionately huge increases in both the Scottish Greens and Scottish Socialists. There is the cycle of protests and rallies, some on the ‘rigged’ or ‘stolen’ referendum and demanding an ‘independent’ recount, some on the issue of BBC bias, and others on the general cause of independence.

There is understandable motivation and drive behind this ferment. Scotland has just gone through something seismic, which we are still coming to terms with, which has shifted the parameters of debate, and which people are still digesting. Plus there is the pull of the camaraderie and belonging which the referendum aided for a whole spectrum of people, which many wish to not let go of. Read the rest of this entry »

We are One Scotland: Anatomy of a Referendum

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 24th 2014

It was a momentous moment in Scottish and British history. The Scottish independence referendum. It dominated Scottish and British airwaves in the last couple of weeks, and became a huge international story.

Nearly every single cliché has been dug up, used and then over-used to exhaustion. What then as the excitement, claim and counter-claim quieten down, is there left to say and do? Actually, there is quite a lot.

Let’s talk about the immediate reactions post-vote from the Scottish and British political classes. They both have so far let us down, speaking for their narrow interests and party advantage, with no one addressing wider concerns.

Take the SNP leadership. Five days after the vote neither Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon has reached out to the 55% or offered any words of congratulation, recognition or understanding. Both were conspicuous by their absence from the Church of Scotland service of reconciliation on Sunday. The three pro-union parties were all represented by their leaders; the SNP by John Swinney.

Then there is the Westminster political classes. From David Cameron’s first announcement on Friday morning at 7am, they have been out on political manoeuvres advancing and promoting narrow self-interests. Cameron in that morning address was conciliatory in tone and style, but in content, was ruthlessly and naked calculating, linking Scottish ‘devo max’ to the idea of English votes for English laws. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Scotland has finally woken up and become a democracy

Gerry Hassan

September 21st 2014

It has been an incredible few years to live in Scotland.

Assumption after assumption about public life, society and the closed order of how politics has been traditionally done, has been turned upside down.

People will still feel raw on either side. Yes people feel deflated and disappointed; No supporters sense that they were forced into a debate they didn’t want to have. But if we step back the bigger picture is an impressive and powerful one.

It is one many of the observers from outside Scotland who came to see the independence referendum witnessed. They saw a nation having a democratic debate in dignity and respect on one of the most fundamental questions any nation could ask itself.

One group who have followed and engaged in our discussion has been English, Welsh and Irish radicals. Think Billy Bragg, John Harris, Will Hutton, Madeleine Bunting and Fintan O’Toole, all of who spoke at the recent Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas, sponsored by the Sunday Herald. Read the rest of this entry »

Britain is on Borrowed Time: The Future of Scottish Independence

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, September 19th 2014

Scotland voted No to independence. In answer to the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, 1,617,989 voted Yes (44.7%) and 2,001,926 voted No (55.3%) in a massively impressive turnout of 84.6%: the highest ever anywhere in the UK in post-war times.

The result, and campaign, will be rightly mulled over and analysed for years, but in the fast moving aftermath it is important to lay down some thoughts and calm-headed thinking. Scotland has changed and shifted in how it sees itself and its future, as a political community, society and nation. Crucially, how others in the rest of the UK and internationally see Scotland, has dramatically and permanently moved.

It has made and unmade political careers. Alex Salmond who brought the SNP to victory in 2007 and 2011 has resigned one day after the vote; Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is the clear favourite to take over the leadership. David Cameron after facing the prospect of political defeat in the last few days, knew he was fighting for his very political life and that Tory plotters were out to get him. Despite the No victory there were continued Tory maneuverings, anger and lack of comprehension over the deep-seated crisis of the union.

The arc of this long campaign involved three distinct phases: the phony war from the election of the SNP as a majority government in May 2011; the slow boiling of November 2013 from when the Scottish Government’s White Paper on independence was published to August 2014; and the last hectic, frenetic, chaotic period leading up to the vote. Read the rest of this entry »