Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Govanhill: Glasgow’s Ellis Island and the Battle for the Heart of Nicola Sturgeon’s Constituency

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 4th 2016

A couple of years ago a community arts project in Glasgow designated Albert Drive on the city’s Southside as ‘Scotland’s most ethnically diverse street’. It was a good strapline – filled with positivity and pride, but inaccurate. Instead, that byline should be held by the nearby community of Govanhill, with 53 different languages recorded in its small area.

Govanhill has always been in transition and a place for immigrants: known for a long while as Glasgow’s Ellis Island. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries it saw Irish immigration; after the Second World War, Italian, Polish and Jewish incomers and then from the seventies, Asian immigration, mostly from Pakistan, and in the last decade, Roma newcomers. Each, including the most recent, has been met with a degree of welcome, besides some unease and local tensions.

Govanhill is an area of great change, energy and enterprise that buzzes with activities and potential, but does have problems. It has some awful, slum housing with terrible living conditions, dampness and over-crowding. There are concerns about crime and policing and parts of the neighbourhood have a sense of decay and neglect, with overgrown backcourts and uncollected piles of rubbish.

For years Govanhill has had a palpable feeling of falling between the cracks and not receiving council and government regeneration policy and funding. It isn’t by any stretch one of the most poor parts of Glasgow or Scotland, but this has meant it has consistently missed out of funds, priorities and influence. Read the rest of this entry »

What happened to the Spirit of Scotland’s Democratic Revolution?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 1st 2016

There is a Scottish election going on – played out in TV and radio studios, photo-ops and the occasional party leader debates. Its main contestants are the party leaders, no one else from the main parties, and perhaps more importantly, its key media players – Kirsty Wark, Bernard Ponsonby, Gordon Brewer and Jackie Bird.

All Scottish elections are strange affairs. In the early years the result was a foregone conclusion, with only 2007 on a knife-edge, while in 2011 the country moved to a SNP landslide during the campaign.

There is the Euro referendum. The implosion of Corbyn’s Labour Party, the Conservative civil war and open succession, the irrelevance of the Lib Dems, and UKIP finding it impossible to morph into a serious political party.

Something more serious is going on. This is the first Scottish Parliament election since the democratic explosion of the indyref – which in effect was a ‘Big Bang’ of energy and matter which affected the body politic. Read the rest of this entry »

Shining a Spotlight on Power in the Darkness in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, April 29th 2016

A few months ago I watched the award-winning film ‘Spotlight’ – the story of the ‘Boston Globe’s’ investigative unit of the same name that examined allegations of Catholic Church sexual abuse.

Although set in Boston in 2001 the film has a linear story – and old-fashioned feel. This is reinforced by its serious subject matter and straightforward approach that helped it win several Oscars this year, including for best film.

I couldn’t help but be moved by the immediate story the film conveyed, and also to think of its relevance to Scotland. Where have been our ‘Spotlights’ ? Who has systematically shone light on abuses of power, and do most of us even care that most power is exercising in the dark – far from scrutiny?

These thoughts returned when I attended The Ferret’s first ever conference in Glasgow last weekend. Set up by Peter Geoghegan, Rob Edwards, Rachel Hamada and Billy Briggs this is Scotland’s first on-line investigative journalist resource. It has already in a few months broken several stories – including Police in Scotland violating secrecy laws with CCTV, and SNP links to a fracking company – and been nominated for UK media awards. Read the rest of this entry »

What is the point of manifestos if they wont treat us as adults?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 24th 2016

All the party manifestos are out – bar Labour. But the only really important one – that of the SNP – emerged this week.

It was an event. A spectacle. A cross between an American sports event and a Barbara Streisand concert, with the associated emotional overload.

It is all part of the modern election ritual. Part of the form and planned grid of the campaign which political and media professionals know and understand.

If we step back from the political bubble we have to question why all this fuss about party manifestos? They used to be thin things filled with vague pronouncements. Then they became thick and detailed. And now they are filled with photos and sunlit shots.

There are two positive examples of British manifestos – Labour 1945 and Thatcher 1979. The Labour one ‘Lets Face the Future’ was 27 pages long: short, concise and clear. It said things like ‘The nation wants food, work and homes’. It changed Britain for the better in ways we still live with. Read the rest of this entry »

Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Question of Europe, the UK and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 20th 2016

I am a European. I believe in Europe as an idea. And for all of my life I have felt an affinity and connection with the notion of greater European integration.

Now I am not so sure. When I was a child my parents voted in the 1975 referendum against the then EEC. I wasn’t convinced of their argument. The BBC were showing then John Terraine’s ‘The Mighty Continent’ – a history of Europe in the 20th century – narrated by Peter Ustinov.

This hooked me. It told Britain’s island story as part of the continent: of two World Wars, the depression and post-war boom, art and literature, and introduced me to the tragedies of the Hungarian uprising and Prague spring, both of which were snuffed out by Soviet tanks.

Britain was the sick man of Europe in the sixties and seventies. The German and, even to a lesser extent, French and Italian economies were both revered and feared – with faster economic growth, greater prosperity, and better labour relations between workers and management than the UK. Read the rest of this entry »