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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Culture in Scotland in the midst of storms: A Call for Dangerous Cultures

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 16th 2018

Culture in Scotland is in difficult times: public spending cuts, the lost decade of stagnant living standards for the vast majority of people, limits to the Scottish Government’s largesse and devolution powers, controversy over Creative Scotland’s decision making and funding priorities resulting in the debate over the future of the Scottish Youth Theatre – and much more (with some questioning the continued existence of Creative Scotland).

If you think these are dangerous waters you ain’t seen nothing yet. While some yearn for the headwinds of populism, revolt and voter dissatisfaction to blow themselves out and ‘normal’ politics to resume, others recognise that what was normal was part of the problem and one of the reasons we got into the current mess. Restoration politics and culture which is what some dream of isn’t aiming very high.

Instead, we inhabit an age of broken mainstream politics, a discredited economic model, big questions about accountability, ethics and responsibility in both public life and in what is called private life, but is increasingly a contested arena. That’s without mentioning Brexit, Trump, the ineptitudes of the Theresa May UK Government, and that nearly everywhere in the developed world those notionally in control have lost their confidence, while continuing to pretend otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

As Brexit Britain heads for the rocks what does Corbyn’s Labour stand for?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 14th 2018

The diminished global status of Britain and our future post-Brexit has been on display in the last few days. The attempted murder of Sergei Skripa and his daughter Yulia and the possible role of Russian authorities; the visit of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, and the continued saga of Donald Trump’s unpredictable, erratic Presidency from trade wars to his state visit, all illustrate the challenges a diminished UK will face in the aftermath of Brexit.

Twenty-one months on from the Brexit vote we have no clear plan or detail from the UK Government. Indeed, the kind of Brexit and Britain which the UK Government represents is nothing more than a sketch and vague principles, much to the increasing consternation of the EU and the remaining 27 nation-states.

Brexit is full of contradictions, tensions and paradoxes. Can the fabled Tory Party with its reputation for statecraft really be reduced to its current incompetence and divisions? This has come after decades of Tory appeasement of Euroscepticism, culminating in David Cameron’s infamous pledge in 2013 to hold an in/out referendum: a pledge he though he would never have to deliver; then followed by his attempt to secure renegotiated terms of EU membership – with echoes of Harold Wilson in 1975; and subsequent referendum campaign and Brexit triumph. Read the rest of this entry »

A Warning from the Past: What happened to Scottish Labour could happen to the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 14th 2018

What goes up must come down is a truism worth remembering in relation to politics – as well as to economics and every kind of asset or property bubble.

There once was a political party in Scotland which saw itself as the embodiment of the radical tradition, in touch with voters, and embodying social justice. It became more and more complacent, self-congratulatory, and out of touch – eventually morphing into the Scottish establishment. That party was the Scottish Labour Party.

The received wisdom of many people in each party about Scottish Labour and SNP is that no two parties could be more different. But in reality the similarities are much more real than the differences. Take current politics. The emergence of a Corbyn factor north of the border has changed our political dynamics. This became a live issue particularly in the 2017 election and its aftermath. It established Labour on the left flank of the SNP and illuminated the SNP’s cautious centrism which the party leadership has judged pre-Corbyn to be enough to present themselves in social democratic colours. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Put the Culture into Creative Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 7th 2018

Creative Scotland’s latest stramash has again brought arts funding, decision-making and the role of the organisation centrestage.

It is a recurring problem. After the good news story before Christmas, of Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop announcing – against expectations – a real terms increase in the funding of Creative Scotland, all seemed for a brief period sweetness and light. Then came the announcement on 25 January for Regularly Funding Organisations (RFOs), who have a three-year funding cycle, of significant cuts in a host of success stories – Transmission in Glasgow and Macrobert in Stirling being but two. More seriously, seven high profile, non-building based companies had their funding completely cut, with their sole support the prospect of one year touring funds.

This has brought controversy and resignations, with Ruth Wishart and Maggie Kinloch resigning from Creative Scotland’s Board. Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop indicated a degree of displeasure at the recent funding announcement, tweeting that ‘angst and worry could be avoided if CS is clearer’ to bodies it was funding – in what amounted to an unprecedented public dressing down.

Joyce McMillan observed that Creative Scotland ‘is still an agency that generates blizzards of impenetrable reports and strategies, in all of which principles like equality, diversity and inclusion loom large, along with the importance of arts for children and young people.’ Neil Cooper, writing in ‘Bella Caledonia’, commented that the agency was characterised by a ‘dunder-headed managerialism’ which is ‘a microcosm of a far greater global malaise’ – and that ‘Creative Scotland was an ideological construct from the start’. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Wake Up and Ask Some Difficult Questions abut the SNP and Independence

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, January 23rd 2018

‘What Do You Do When A Society Lies to Itself?’ So said writer Umair Haque this week in the context of the constitutional standoff in Trump’s America. But it is true of most nations most of the time; certainly it is true of today’s UK – and also of modern Scotland.

Scottish politics are currently in what can only be described as a phoney war – a becalmed period of inertia and inactivity in-between the storms that buffet politics. Everyone is waiting to see how Brexit pans out. This is central to how the SNP and Scottish Government see things. They are sitting, anticipating the debris that flows from Brexit and the implications for independence. Unfortunately, this is a politics of passivity, and even of acceptance, that others (the UK Government, EU negotiators) will determine the political environment.

Added to this, since the indyref, a problematic mix of complacency, and even self-deception, has befallen too many independence supporters. For one, the SNP leadership has failed to grasp the political momentum post-2014. Nicola Sturgeon has not made one strategic gambit since the indyref and her election as SNP leader and First Minister – beyond the March 2017 attempt to advance a second indy referendum, in which she was out-manoeuvred by Theresa May and the UK Government. 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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