Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Nationalism’

Flags and Stramashs in Scotland’s Summer of Independence

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 24th 2016

A couple of weeks ago I was involved in one of the many online conversations about politics that now characterise Scotland. Afterwards the animated chat in the pub turned to the previous day’s pro-independence march in Glasgow.

Saltires had been there in plenty – and one person, perhaps more fully signed up to independence than the others, asked ‘Why is Scotland the only place in the world where people are told off for flying their flag?’ This was met by myself and others with incredulity, as we pointed out that all over the world flags are problematic, and not one national flag is completely uncontested.

This amiable conversation concluded with two of us saying in near-unison words to the effect: ‘We don’t want to waste time on these sorts of discussions. If we were to waste time on this sort of thing, rather than substance, we would consider voting No next time.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with Britain and Why It Can’t Be Tidily Put Back Together

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, August 14th 2016

Britain throughout its history has had a reputation for stability and security.

This after all was one of the main clarion calls in the indyref and, more recently, the Brexit vote, but this has always been a bit of a myth and is now increasingly fictitious.

In the European referendum and its aftermath, much of the discussion that occurred repeatedly – supposedly about the country, its challenges and future – wasn’t actually about the UK, but instead about England.

This has become the way the country is presented by its elites. One glaring example of this was the previous week’s BBC post-vote analysis, ‘Brexit: The Battle for Britain’ which had lots to commend it. Politicians were candid, telling stories about decisions – and about each other. Read the rest of this entry »

Armageddon Days are Here Again: Ulsterification and the Potential of DIY Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 11th 2016

Language, words and how people communicate matter. Yet, many would agree that much of the conduct of politics and politicians – and even public life in Scotland and the UK – falls short and leaves a lot to be desired. There is a lack of straight-talking and honesty, and over-use of worn out phrases and expressions, along with attempts to close off debates by caricaturing and stereotyping opponents and their arguments.

This week David Cameron decided to invoke, in relation to Brexit, not just security, defence and conflict concerns, but the prospect that World War Three would be more likely. This is an arms race of scare stories which starts with living standards being threatened by political upheaval, and ends in the spectre of Armageddon and potentially the end of humanity as we know it.

Scotland has been developing its own march towards hysteria beyond the manufactured threats of Project Fear. In the most uncompromising nationalist accounts of Scotland there is much accusation and concern about betrayal, perfidy, treachery, the odd quisling, and what seems akin to an occupation of the mind.

This perspective perceives organised conspiracy everywhere in our history and today. There was the historic wrong of the union with England, bought by a ‘parcel o’ rogues’ which no one in the population voted for (ignoring that these were pre-democratic times, and the same was true of England), to what the union supposedly did to Scotland – imposing injustice after injustice upon us, either against our collective will, or without asking. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Arise Now and Be a Nation Again’: The neverending story of Scotland’s history

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 23rd 2016

Tom Devine has been a huge intellectual influence in Scotland in recent decades, having made major and thoughtful contributions to many important historical and contemporary debates.

His latest work, ‘Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present’ is part a summary of his previous research, ‘The Scottish Nation’ and his work on Scotland’s Empire, seen through the prism of Scotland’s place and influence in the union.

This descriptive, wide-ranging book covers not only over 300 years of Scottish history, but huge changes, the rise and fall of ideas and powerful forces, along with this nation’s place in a wider context: most critically, its relationship with England, but also with its European neighbours, and Empire and Commonwealth. Devine, for much of this story has a real way of telling this, while giving a place for people, traditions and the many complexities involved.

Devine tells the story well of the Scotland pre and post-union, and the difficult dilemmas and competing pressures that parliamentarians and leaders had to weight up. There is a sense of balance and geo-political awareness for the Scotland of immediately before and the years after 1707, and the issues of Scottish autonomy in the union, London’s view of Scotland, the Scottish need for access to greater trade opportunities, the running sore of taxes and duties and the contradictory relationship between Jacobinism and the union alongside the role of Presbyterianism, which puts the 1715 and 1745 risings in proper context. Read the rest of this entry »

The Last of the True Believers: Comrades of the World Unite!

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 17th 2016

The age of insecurity has turned out to be an age of rage and anger. Yet, so far, a near-decade of economic collapse, turmoil and corporate deception hasn’t led to a widespread revival in the fortunes of the left’s ideas and popularity.

Instead, the picture is a very mixed, patchy one. There has been a rise in populism, xenophobia and identity politics: Trump and the US Republicans, UKIP and the French Front National, and the much more sinister hard-right examples in Poland and Hungary. There has been the emergence of a revivalist left in places (Bernie Sanders, Jeremy Corbyn) and a new populist one (Syriza, Podemos). But nowhere, apart from Greece – that hasn’t worked out too well – has a popular left entered government challenging the economic and geo-political straightjacket.

There is a widespread dismay with political establishments and mainstream politics here and across the West. This has contributed to a new interest in ideas, radical politics, books and accounts of previous campaigns and struggles. Bookshops such as News from Nowhere in Liverpool or Bookmarks in London report huge increases in sales of left-wing books and publications, classic and new.

It is this backdrop which makes David Aaronovitch’s ‘Party Animals: My Family and Other Communists’ more than an esoteric, idiosyncratic read, but one which has some relevance in the midst of the emergence of Corbynmania. ‘My Father and Mother were Communists’ memories are obviously a declining heritage industry but Alexi Sayle recently contributed to this oeuvre with a typically more light-hearted read. He affectionately reviewed Aaronovitch’s book and made common cause (both having one Jewish and one non-Jewish Communist parent) about the surreal nature of the party parallel universe (the party dentists, plumbers and accountants, often irrespective of their skill). Read the rest of this entry »