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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Is Scotland really a social democratic country?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 18th 2017

At last week’s SNP conference in the middle of her keynote speech, Nicola Sturgeon asked: ‘What kind of country do we want to be?’ She wasn’t expecting an answer, and seemed surprised when a member of the party faithful shouted out ‘an independent one.’

Behind Sturgeon’s non-question is the belief in Scottish difference, the efficacy of our values, and the link of both of these to the idea of Scotland as a social democratic country. Thus, around the conference chatter and commentary, Lesley Riddoch on Sky News spoke of ‘a social democratic consensus’ in Scotland, while Iain Macwhirter on the BBC talked of ‘a social democratic politics.’

Scotland as a land of social democracy has become the lexicon of our politics. It has accelerated under devolution, contributing to the mood music of the political environment and institutions. This has become even more pronounced under SNP rule, for obvious reasons, as the difference between Scotland and England politically is emphasised – Scotland social democratic good; England neo-liberal bad. Read the rest of this entry »

Scottish Independence in the Age of Disruption: Big Questions for the SNP, Labour and Tories

Gerry Hassan

LSE Politics Blog, October 9th 2017

Scottish politics are in a strange place at the moment – not one of calm, but of transition with the future uncertain. After several years of high-octane politics, and the twin peaks of disruption of the 2014 indyref and 2016 Brexit vote, all of Scotland’s main political parties have some adjusting to do.

The SNP, ten years in office, are still trying to digest the reverse of the 2017 UK election; the Tories how to continue their new found popularity; and Labour have another leadership contest to choose their ninth leader in the devolution era. The Lib Dems, despite once being crucial coalition partners with Labour in Scotland, and the Scottish Greens, whose vital pro-independence votes in the Scottish Parliament the SNP need for a majority, both struggle to make an impact.

The SNP meet at their autumn conference in Glasgow in unsettled mood. They are more unsure of themselves than a year ago; less confident that the forces of history are behind them and will carry all before it leading to independence. Ten years into office, the party first went up in popularity – its narrow win in 2007 followed by a landslide in 2011 in devolved elections, then by the tsunami of the SNP 56 in 2015. It has been slowly down since, while still remaining by far Scotland’s leading party – and government. Read the rest of this entry »

Catalonia and Scotland are very different: The complex struggle for self-determination

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 4th 2017

There are many reasons to be thankful for living in Scotland. This came home to roost in the last week with the Catalan referendum, the experience of the Iraqi Kurds voting on independence, and even, more dramatically, the tragic events in the US when Las Vegas witnessed yet another mass killing and carnage.

Scotland is a prosperous and peaceful country. Unlike Catalonia we were able to have an independence referendum – which everyone agreed to, participated in, and accepted who won and who lost.

Central to this was the role of the British Government. For all the ‘othering’ of Britain and the British state – which happens in pro-independence opinion – from its pursuit of inequality, war on the poor and unraveling of the welfare state, to its many military adventures abroad and belief in its role as an international policeman, it acted (in the Scottish example) with an element of insight, intelligence and even wisdom. And we were all the better for it. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour could be the future but is feeling a bit too self-satisfied with itself

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 26th 2017

This week the Labour Party Conference gathered in Brighton. It hasn’t been in such good spirits for many a year – with the highest membership of any party in Europe, and the biggest increase in its vote in a UK general election since 1945.

The spirit in many respects is a little too upbeat. Corbyn’s Labour did not actually win the June election, despite Theresa May’s campaign being the most inept by a major party in living memory. There is too much backslapping, feeling smug and self-congratulatory, and the conference opened to delegates singing the now mandatory semi-football chant of ‘Oh, Jeremy Corbyn’. Leadership cults and worship are never advisable: imagine the Nats doing this under Salmond or Sturgeon at her peak, or the Tories under the imperial reign of Thatcher?

Labour has earned the right to be taken seriously again. There is a good chance it will form the next UK Government. But it does need a big further shift to do so – needing 64 seats for a bare majority and cannot forever duck and dive on Brexit. The biggest UK political issue in decades hasn’t even been properly debated at conference, as the Eurosceptic leadership of Corbyn and McDonnell want to square their opinions with a hugely pro-EU membership and concentrate on Tory divisions. This isn’t sustainable or serious politics at such a time of crisis. 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 »

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