Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

What’s Missing from the European Referendum?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 22nd 2016

As memory of the Scottish campaign fades, along comes another one: the European referendum. It is like the deregulated chaos of buses – first none, then a stampede!

We now have regular referendums. Scotland has had three, as has Wales, Northern Ireland two, and this is the third UK-wide vote. When they were first mooted in the 1970s they were called, particularly by MPs, ‘alien’, ‘unBritish’, ‘undermining of parliamentary sovereignty’, and the sort of things dictatorships do.

Since then the referendum has slowly become part of the Scottish and British constitutional furniture. There is even now an agreed set of rules in the form of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 that allows for official ‘designated’ sides, and tries to create an equal playing field in donations and spending in the short campaign.

This phenomenon is not just British, but evident across Europe and US. There are many reasons for this. There is the decline in political elites, fall in deference, spread of communications, and emergence of issues such as constitutional arrangements, environment and ethical concerns, which transcend old left-right and class divisions. Read the rest of this entry »

Have We Passed Peak SNP? After the Three Dreams of Scottish Nationalism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 18th 2016

Nearly fifty years ago Scotland embarked on a new political journey – one defined by the politics of Scottish nationalism, the electoral challenge of the SNP, and the debate on self-government and how to best express Scotland’s collective interests.

It has been a bumpy ride, involving controversies, incidents, moments of elation and disappointment, but while history is never tidy and linear, Scotland post-Winnie Ewing winning Hamilton in November 1967 was never the same. That much is uncontroversial. There have been subsequently three distinctive waves of SNP support: 1967-74, 1988-92, and then, post-devolution, and in particular since 2007. Each phase has been deeper and more transformative; first, challenging and then supplanting the Tories as the main opposition to Labour, then marginalising Labour, and becoming the leading party of the country.

At the onset of this the writer Tom Nairn wrote an essay, ‘Three Dreams of Scottish Nationalism’ which has often been cited, but seldom seriously analysed. Nairn foresaw three distinct dreams of Scotland historically: Reformation, romanticism, and bourgeois nationalism, each of which in its dream offered the prospect of being damned or saved, redemption or failure, wholeness and salvation or fragmentation and failure.

It is classic early Nairn from which came the famous quotes ‘Scotland will be reborn the day the last minister is strangled with the last copy of the Sunday Post’ and ‘there is no Stalinist like a Scottish Stalinist’ – both of which contain poetry and over-statement. Beyond this, allowing for early Nairn’s doubts about the potential of Scottish independence, much of his critique has remained constant and stands the test of time. Read the rest of this entry »

An Open Letter to the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 15th 2016

Congratulations on last week’s historic third term. It was well deserved. The party has rightly established a reputation for competence. Nicola Sturgeon is popular and liked; none of the opposition come near.

The SNP has contributed enormously to public life. It is seen as standing up for Scotland’s interests and after decades of Labour cronyism has been a new broom.

This is probably as good as it gets. For the good of the country, the party and independence, it needs to understand the nature of its victory and mandate.

1. Nicola Sturgeon said the election gave her ‘a clear and unequivocal mandate’. That’s not accurate, and sets the wrong tone when the public have just elected a minority SNP administration.

2. There is now an established pattern emerging of SNP over-reach seen in the three peaks of the indyref, 2015 election and this year. The SNP doesn’t seem to know how to deal with huge success (2015), slight reverses (this year) and losing (indyref). That’s a worrying pattern. 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 »

The Scottish Revolution that isn’t quite what people expected

Gerry Hassan

May 6th 2016

The Scottish election was a foregone conclusion. Everything was settled we were told. But it hasn’t quite turned out that way.

A third SNP term, but without the expected overall majority that the Nationalists and polls expected. A Tory revival beyond expectations. And a Labour nightmare implosion which makes it difficult to see a way back. Decent results for the Greens and Lib Dems.

All of this will throw up big questions about politics, power and legitimacy. Nicola Sturgeon has talked about ‘a clear and unequivocal mandate’, but is it really – when the Nats campaigned with the expectation of a majority? Part of this is failed expectation management, but it raises questions about whether Sturgeon and the Nats can adapt to a different language and politics in more difficult times, and a more contested politics? This is without getting into what this means for the longer term prospects of independence – which cannot now be seen as synonymous with the SNP.

Here are some of the bigger changes:

1. TURNOUT

The second highest Scottish Parliament election turnout since 1999. 55.6% is up 5.2% on 2011 – but way down on the indyref 84.6% and last year’s 71.1%. Some of ‘the missing Scotland’ which turned out in the indyref – has clearly become disenfranchised again – look at the Dundee and Glasgow turnouts for example. Read the rest of this entry »