Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Nationalism’
The Battle for Britain and Why Alex Salmond and Independence Has Already Won
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 »
Radical Nostalgia Scotland and Why We Can’t Go Back to the 1970s
Scottish Review, February 5th 2014
Scotland’s current debate on independence comprises many conversations. They centre on what we were, are and could be, and who did what to whom in the past, and what it means about where we are now, and what we could become in the future.
Many of these aspects were to the fore last week at a Jim Sillars-Alex Neil event to launch Jim’s new book, ‘In Place of Fear II’, under the auspices of ‘Yes Airdrie’. On a cold Thursday night, nearly 300 people attended, a five man only panel (with David Hayman, Pat Kane and the chair), and for two hours of discussion in which every question from the floor was asked by a man. Pat understandably baulked at this, apologised and after his contribution, gave his place to a woman in the audience (who got to make a one minute intervention over the course of the whole evening).
Sillars book is fascinating. It is a real curate’s egg, buzzing with ideas, eclectism and frustration (both about Scotland and personally). Many of the suggestions are a bit dotty (the Robert Burns hospital ship), but many are interesting, and some even heretical (such as self-governing state schools). It is in a deeper sense, a sign of the Scottish times: of a culture which has awoken to the power of the pamphleteer, both old and new, and the floating of numerous vessels and platforms. Read the rest of this entry »
Be Clear Who Britain is Great For
The Scotsman, January 18th 2014
The independence debate is about many things – politics, practicalities, personalities.
More than this it is about emotions – ranging from hope and fear, to anger, indignation and even incomprehension.
We have heard enough about the supposedly ‘Braveheart’ idea of Scottish independence, but what of the emotional case for Britain and the union?
There is still a powerful, resonant argument for the UK in its present form which has appeal and a rationale, albeit a declining one. This week Chris Deerin in ‘The Guardian’ (in a piece republished from the Scottish Daily Mail) attempted upon his return to Scotland to lay out such a case, and was backed up the redoubtable Alex Massie a day later. Read the rest of this entry »
The Problem of Patriotism and the Left
The Scotsman, December 7th 2013
This week Keith Vaz, chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, asked the ‘Guardian’ editor Alan Rusbridger, ‘Do you love your country?’.
This was in relation to the ‘Guardian’s’ publication of some of Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the activities of the US-UK surveillance state. Rusbridger, clearly surprised by the question answered in the affirmative, ‘We are patriots. One of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy and a free press’.
Patriotism, for all the uses and misuses of Dr. Johnson’s quote about it being ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’, has proven a messy battleground. Many on the right in Britain view it unconditionally, while large parts of the left see it as reactionary and to be resisted. To add to this many on the right have used it down the years to smear and undermine the left.
Vaz has yet to explain his comments, but even elements of the right-wing press found them hard to defend. The ‘Daily Telegraph’s’ Dan Hodges called it a straightforward ‘definition of McCarthyism’; while the usually pugnaciously right-wing ‘Daily Mail’ Quentin Letts found it an uneasy, uncomfortable use of words. Read the rest of this entry »
A Different Scotland is Happening
Gerry Hassan and James Mitchell
Scottish Review, November 27th 2013
Many words will be written this week and in the years to come about the independence debate and the publication of the Scottish Government White Paper on independence launched yesterday in Glasgow by Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon.
All of this has come about after negotiations between the UK and Scottish Governments. They agreed the question to be put to the Scottish people, about who could vote and the rules of the referendum. The two Governments and campaign organisations associated with each side seek to define the terms of the debate: independence vs. separatism; hope vs. fear; change vs. continuity.
There is nothing unusual in this. Elections and referendums in liberal democracies are about giving the public an authoritative voice on pre-determined choices.
As a device for consulting the people, the referendum is now more commonly used in the UK than the past. It has value in ensuring that a decision carries the legitimising power of public support, as happened in the 1997 devolution vote. But referendums have their limitations. They encourage highly adversarial politics and limit choices to what is on offer at the ballot box, even if the public might prefer something else. These features can limit public involvement to being spectators. Read the rest of this entry »