Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Gerry Hassan, Independence of the Scottish Mind: Elite Narratives, Public Spaces and the Making of a Modern Nation, Palgrave Macmillan

ISBN 978-1-137-41413-7

Reviewed by Scott Hames

Soundings: A Journal of Politics and Culture, Summer 2016

The feverish upheaval of Scottish politics has gradually become its own kind of normal. On 5 May the voters practically yawned as they seized their second chance in twelve months to slaughter the Scottish Labour party. (The body-count is considerable, but it was an apathetic smothering compared to the gore of 2015.) As the SNP’s post-referendum insurgency beds down into cautious hegemony, boredom and campaign-fatigue take hold. With little prospect of a change in Holyrood government, less dynamic patterns of public life return to the fore.

It’s a good moment to reflect on how we got here, and what has and hasn’t changed along the way. Gerry Hassan’s lively and comprehensive study offers ‘a longer-term perspective on the loosening of the inner ties of the UK and weakening of British identity, combined with the rise of a Scottish political dimension and debate’. Independence of the Scottish Mind combines the merits of a richly theorised history of the developments that made devolution inevitable, a shrewd insider’s guide to Scotland’s largely invisible civic-institutional elite, and a sharp critique of the nation’s social-democratic consensus. Read the rest of this entry »

The Labour Party: that pillar of the British constitution doesn’t have a right to exist

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, July 25th 2016

Politics requires a credible opposition that holds government to account. One that offers the prospect of an alternative government – but now, and for the foreseeable future, Scotland and the UK is without one.

This is due to the state of Labour. The last year has been one of the most disastrous in the party’s history. A second election defeat, Scotland lost – and then Brexit. And after last year’s defeat the party curled up even more in its comfort zone and elected Jeremy Corbyn.

Corbyn now faces a proper leadership contest against Owen Smith. The party has in two days enlisted 183,541 new members, producing 515,000 card-carrying members. But the party has lost control of who it is, or who its members are.

One big difference between Labour and Tories is that Tories love power and know how to use it. Labour don’t love power and don’t know how to use it. This division between the two parties has always been so. Read the rest of this entry »

After Britain: Is Scottish Independence the New Normal?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 6th 2016

These are unprecedented times. The Tories, UKIP and English and Welsh Greens are all in the middle of leadership elections, while Jeremy Corbyn is holding on by his fingertips in a stand-off with his own parliamentary party

There is a lot of bewilderment, frustration and resentment – not just amongst Remain voters in the EU referendum, but also in the bitterly divided Leave camp.

In the midst of this maelstrom Scottish independence looks like the new normal: less risky and the safer option than the Brexiteer fantasy of Britain. Whereas before the vote Leave was left as an open offer, now the uber right-wing plans are being dusted down with the aim of ripping up every economic and social regulation possible.

Some are portraying independence as a potential new ‘Scottish Renaissance’, but for what version of Scotland? In many respects, one suspects this is a Scotland which is a mini-me version of ‘the great British economic miracle’ – our very own ‘Celtic Tiger’ reflated post-crash with little learnt from that implosion. Read the rest of this entry »

Is this the beginning of the end of Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, July 3rd 2016

It may not be the beginning of the end of the UK quite yet. But it is the end of British politics – and Britain, as we know it.

The British state faces its biggest geo-political set of challenges in generations. Blair and Iraq, Anthony Eden and Suez pale compared to this in terms of damage to the UK’s reputation, and only Neville Chamberlain and Munich, and Lord North’s loss of the American colonies, are in any way in the same league.

Fifty years of British statecraft towards the EU have been completely blown up, itself part of over two hundred years of how the UK has seen itself in relation to Europe – in attempting to keep the balance and prevent one country from controlling the continent. Now the EU will be left even more to German dominance.

A sizeable minority of Europe led by France want to punish the UK; the majority led by German Chancellor Angela Merkel still hope to do the best deal possible with the British. But there is widespread anger with the usually calm Dutch Prime Minister Mark Ruffe commenting, ‘England has collapsed politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically.’ And that’s from a friend. Read the rest of this entry »

Whatever happens, Britain has already left the building

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 22nd 2016

The UK has already left Europe. It never really joined in any real sense.

National debates like this reveals much about the psyche of a country, and how it sees its collective hopes and fears. For one, it illuminates a lot about the ghosts of the past that haunt a country. In the Scottish indyref, for example, a great deal of this focused on the perceived legacy of Thatcherism and deindustrialisation.

In this European debate, the ghosts seemingly ever-present are those of the spectre of German dominance of the continent and the dark empire of the Nazis, Hitler and World War Two. Further proof, if it were needed, that this has a vice-like grip on the British imagination, was given by the recent controversy over anti-Semitism sparked by Ken Livingstone, which revolved around Hitler’s relationship with Zionism, lacking any sensitivity or interest in historical accuracy.

The 1975 referendum campaign, 41 years ago and 30 years after World War Two, had little to no references to the Nazis and Hitler. People were too close then to the horrendous, murderous events of the war, and careful to not appear tactless or make offensive comparisons. Read the rest of this entry »