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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Parliament’

Are a ‘liberal elite’ really running Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 6th 2017

Is Scotland run by a ‘liberal junta’ or a ‘social junta’? This might seem a far-fetched notion but this is the charge made by Observer and Herald columnist Kevin McKenna (‘social junta’) and backed up by Iain Macwhirter (‘liberal junta’). I have enormous respect for both Kevin and Iain and value their many contributions to public life, but do think that on this they have got it badly wrong.

The argument put by McKenna in The Observer is that the Scottish Parliament is more focused on areas like tightening the ban on fox hunting, outlawing smacking on kids, and even minimum pricing on alcohol, than waging war on poverty and trying to support and change the lives of the poor.

This is in McKenna’s words ‘further proof of Holyrood’s obsession with the way ordinary people manage their families.’ In sweeping language he disses Scotland’s Parliament as a ‘collection of political confidence-tricksters’ who want to disguise ‘their wholesale betrayal of our poorest communities while blaming it all on the Tories.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Where have all the leaders gone?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 20th 2017

We have a problem with leaders – specifically, a dearth of them in Scotland, the UK and most of the Western world. There is a crisis of authority, trust and legitimacy with, for some, populism, trusting instincts and voicing your inner rage all that is left.

Who do we trust to speak to us, to listen and understand our problems? To offer a guide that points in a direction and takes us there at a speed and consistency that respects anxieties and doubts, and the need to build broad coalitions of support?

Across the West who is there? Angela Merkel does not rate badly as a straight dealing managerialist; whereas Emmanuel Macron has already shown the shallowness of his early promise. In the US, aside from the car crush of the Trump Presidency, Hillary Clinton has just published her memoirs underlining her political weaknesses that contributed to why she lost to the most unpopular Presidential candidate in decades. Read the rest of this entry »

Holyrood has given Scotland independence of the mind

Gerry Hassan

The Guardian, September 11th 2017

Twenty years ago today Scotland voted 3:1 for the establishment of a Scottish Parliament. It was clear the old Westminster system of governing Scotland was discredited. Voters recognised it was undemocratic, and produced bad politics and legislation. The case for change had become a consensus – ‘the settled will’ in John Smith’s description – that the referendum merely and validated.

Twenty years later devolution has been a success. There are no serious calls for the Scottish Parliament to be abolished or for a return of direct rule from Westminster. Ruth Davidson and the Tories long ago made their peace. The late Tam Dalyell was the last expression of such a politics.

The Scottish public now views the Scottish Parliament, rather than Westminster, as the most important political institution. Irrespective of formal independence, Scotland already has an informal independence of the mind in how it talks, thinks and acts. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time for Dangerous Talk: Jaytalking Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 15th 2016

These are strange times. We are told everyday in every way by numerous experts and talking heads that this is an age of unprecedented change, uncertainty and flux. That nothing can be taken for granted.

Yet this is also an age of great conformity and conservatism; not only in mainstream politics but in large acres of what passes for popular culture – from music to novels, theatre, comedy, TV and visual arts.

Scotland fits into this pattern rather well. It has shaken the UK to near breaking point and tells itself continually it is social democratic and egalitarian, while being rather conservative in how it goes about this as well as many other things.

Our country is littered with examples of our collective conformity and lack of interest in substantive change – let alone any real radicalism. And what is telling is our lack of interest or curiosity in these discrepancies – lest they disrupt our telling ourselves how unique we are.

If Scotland were this place of radicalism wouldn’t there be a land filled with lots of examples of radicalism? Of pioneering legislation, examples of social change, and people and communities empowered? Would there not have been a shake up of one of the ultimate closed shops: the Scottish legal establishment? Or the education community? Or even senior health consultants? Public sector reform is a phrase left at the border. Read the rest of this entry »

Who will make the big, bold decisions if Nicola won’t?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, March 6th 2016

These are supposedly exciting times in the broad sweep of Scottish history. There’s the epic spectacle of the referendum; a union questioned and nearly broken; and an upsurge of political engagement, activism and hopes.

Yet, sometimes the predominant story of any period belies much of what it is going on. Take the art of government and making decisions as an example.

How local government is paid for might sound arcane and boring, but it is one that politicians have long been wary of tinkering with. The Scottish rates revaluation of the 1980s brought in the poll tax, and the tax’s introduction in England helped seal the fate of Margaret Thatcher’s Premiership.

No one loves the council tax. It was introduced in 1993 to replace the controversial poll tax – being a return to a property-based tax, without calling it domestic rates. It is supposedly easy to understand, easy to collect, and more difficult to avoid than most of the alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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