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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Nationalists’

Ten Years on the SNP and Scottish nationalism require a different politics for the future

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 24th 2017

The SNP have been a breath of fresh air to Scotland. Fifty years ago this year the modern SNP emerged with the talismanic victory of Winnie Ewing at the Hamilton by-election, and Scotland was never quite the same again.

If you doubt this, think of a Scotland without the SNP. The only way Scots would be able to show their dissatisfaction with Westminster and difference from the rest of the UK would be to remain loyal to Labour. That would work (to an extent) under Tory UK Governments, but not quite when Labour was in power at Westminster.

The SNP in opposition and then in office have changed the parameters of Scottish politics. They have literally changed the name on the door to that of the Scottish Government – marking a profound shift from the dull administration of the previous titled Scottish Executive. They have altered the nature of the role of First Minister to being the national leader of the country. They have brought statecraft and competence to government. And they brought Scotland onto the international stage – first, with the release of al-Megrahi, and then more substantially, in the long campaign of the first indyref.

Ten years into office and with another indyref looking inevitable, this is an appropriate time to reflect, analyse and take stock on the record of the SNP and of wider Scottish nationalism. The former will be the focus of the forthcoming ‘A Nation Changed? The SNP and Scotland Ten Years On’, edited by myself and Simon Barrow, head of the think tank Ekklesia, which will be published in June. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the SNP and Independence Supporters

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 17th 2017

These are fast moving political times for Scotland. The events of the last week illustrate the accelerated fragmentation and disintegration of the UK as we know it.

But these are also times of high stakes and stand-offs, with the Scottish and UK Governments gaming and predicting the actions of the other. Monday’s announcement by Nicola Sturgeon took the UK Government by surprise and seized the centrestage of British politics – forcing the postponement of triggering Article 50. Theresa May’s most recent statement, declaring that ‘now is not the time’ for a referendum’ until the Brexit talks are completed, was predictable. Despite this, it would be ill-advised to underestimate May and the UK Government who, despite her personal inflexibility and lack of comprehension of modern Scotland, will play hard to keep Scotland in the union.

Similarly, while time works in favour of independence, it also has downsides. The SNP have been in office ten years, and with each passing year have more of a record to defend. Next time, the careful 2014 balancing act of being insurgent and incumbent will be much more difficult to pull off. And the SNP’s domestic political dominance (rather like the Tories in the UK) has costs: in that there is, across the SNP and Scottish Government, a tangible weakening in political antenna and sensitivity of how policies and stances appear to those outside the administration. Such a time of high-wire politics means that it is more urgent than ever to reflect, tell hard truths, and to institutionalise more effectively a deeper pluralist politics. Read the rest of this entry »

Indyref2 is coming but can we do better than two versions of Little Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 15th 2016

The ides of March 2017. One single day – Monday March 13th – will go down as an epic day in the fragmentation of the United Kingdom.

The Brexit Bill passed through all its stages in the Commons and Lords shorn of any extra commitments. Nicola Sturgeon announced the prospect of a second independence referendum. And the UK Government in response decided to shelve the triggering of Article 50 for two weeks.

That’s without mentioning what is happening in Northern Ireland as the once impregnable unionist majority sinks below the waves. Political commentator David Torrance reflecting on the state of the UK accurately observed that the UK was one ‘monumental constitutional clusterfuck’.

Every day the UK seems to be becoming increasingly like a ‘little Britain’ – a country getting more nasty, mean, xenophobic, insular, and lacking in any moral character or fibre. This doesn’t look like it will get better anytime soon – with the rightwing Brexiteers oblivious to their narrow 52:48 victory on the back of a manifesto which didn’t amount to more than a proverbial back of a fag packet. Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish Independence has to move with the times

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 1st 2017

Scotland has in recent times liked to see itself as progressive, democratic and European. What’s so special about that you might think? A bit like apple pie and being kind to animals. But these undoubtedly mainstream values were rightly seen as increasingly at odds with the direction of the UK in the last few decades. The UK wasn’t any of these things and this has become even more pronounced and obvious post-Brexit vote.

The Scottish case for these three qualities in 2014 was about something more than their individual characteristics. Instead, they weaved together into a story about Scotland as a modern nation – unlike the seemingly backward, reactionary UK – and presented a picture of a normal country which aspired to be part of the European mainstream. All of this suggested that independence was the natural state of affairs, the direction of travel and the future – whereas the UK was the problem and the past.

However, it was even clear in the midst of the 2014 campaign that there was a problem with these aspirations. Scotland had come to them late in the day of their development. Thus, we aspired to be ‘progressive’ and social democratic, when this tradition has been in retreat and crisis for decades, including within the Nordics. Read the rest of this entry »

Could Scotland really be reduced to the status of a region?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 18th 2017

When did present day Scotland begin? Not the ‘modern’ Scotland of post-war times, or the upside and then downside of Labour Scotland. But the land that we visibly live in today – shaped by the ghosts of industries long gone and the sins and excesses of Thatcher and Blair.

The conventional answer is 1979: the ‘Year Zero’ of Scottish sensibilities when, for many, the world was turned upside down with election of the Thatcher Government and the stalled first devolution referendum.

However, that is the view in retrospect. Thatcher didn’t unambiguously represent Thatcherism in 1979. Interestingly, most of Scotland’s non-Tory politicians and mainstream media didn’t represent it then the way we do now. For example ‘The Herald’ and ‘The Scotsman’ choose to interpret Thatcher’s first UK victory not in terms of the Scottish national dimension, but in British conventional left and right terms (neither of which were then as wedded to the constitutional debate as now).

In reality present day Scotland started somewhere between 1983 and 1987 – between the second Thatcher victory, the invention of the poll tax in 1985-86, and the third Thatcher victory in 1987: ‘the Doomsday scenario’ as it was called (meaning Scotland voted more Labour, but got a Tory Government based on English votes). Read the rest of this entry »

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