Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Nationalism’

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 »

Scotland isn’t really this Divided Nation. The Importance of Detail, Dissent and Deeds

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 3rd 2016

One of the recurring stories of Scotland in the referendum and after has been to say that politics and debate have become bitterly polarised and divided.

This sense of a divided Scotland links into history: that once upon a time we couldn’t surmount our own differences: Highland/Lowland, West/East, Glasgow/Edinburgh, Protestant/Catholic.

This had a feeling of powerlessness – pathologising differences to the extent they became disabling. These were identities found everywhere in the developed world but in Scotland we were so abnormal we couldn’t handle them and ourselves.

Fifteen months after the referendum, seven months after one SNP triumph, and five months before a widely expected second one, some believe that Scotland has become trapped in a frozen time capsule shaped by the referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

‘English Votes’ is political vandalism and fundamentally changes Britain

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, October 25th 2015

This week the United Kingdom profoundly changed in how it does politics, democracy and how Parliament operates.

The House of Commons decided by 312 to 270 voters to alter the nature of its composition by differentiating the voting rights of MPs through introducing English votes for English laws. Meaning that – for English-only matters and legislation – Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs will be excluded from a new ‘grand committee’ stage of the bill – which effectively replaces the substantive second reading of a bill.

Why has this happened now and why does it matter? Much of this debate isn’t actually very new. These issues were first raised in the late 19th century when Irish home rule was proposed by Gladstone, and in response, qualifying the rights of MPs was raised; then often called ‘In/Out voting’.

The tipping point was Scotland’s independence referendum. David Cameron announced the next morning that ‘the voices of England must be heard’ and interpreting this as ‘English votes for English laws.’ Read the rest of this entry »