Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

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 »

This campaign is a future warning from a British Trumpland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, June 19th 2016

The Euro campaign has been without any joy or love, and has reached depths unseen for decades in British politics – reducing complex subjects to the gutter.

This last week has been a humbling one. The tragic death of Labour MP Jo Cox, the UKIP poster ‘Breaking Point’ on the threat of mass immigration coming to the UK, and the disgraceful antics of Leave.EU (the UKIP dominated Leave campaign) linking the Orlando massacre to Muslim immigration.

It has been a long low road to this sad point. Left-wingers and liberals have for decades evaded talking about immigration. Labour, in particular, have avoided any real conversation with its voters for the last fifty years on the subject. As a result, UKIPers and right-wingers have burst through this spiral of silence, claiming ‘politically correct’ censorship, and ended up using a language of stigmatisation, populism and cheap solutions. Read the rest of this entry »

The SNP, Centre-Left Politics and the State of Social Democracy

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 8th 2016

One party stands head and shoulders above all others in Scotland – namely, the Scottish National Party. It has got there through its own efforts, hard work and virtues, along with the numerous mistakes and weaknesses of its opponents. Scottish Labour’s long car crash was part tragedy, part comedy, but mostly of its own making. If it ever has an obituary written, it will say: ‘died at its own hands’. The Scottish Tories have been toxic for a generation, even seen as unScottish and ‘alien’, a phenomenon only slowly beginning to change.

This then begs the question: nine years into office, what do the SNP and Nicola Sturgeon stand for? What kind of Scotland do they wish to bring about, bar one that is independent and self-governing? For some these latter qualities are enough, based for them on principle, but for many they are abstracts which need further detail, and should be the means to an end of wider economic and social change, not an end in itself.

In many respects, a large part of the last nine years of the SNP in office have been the years of light lifting, considering the disarray and weaknesses of their opponents. It has been easy to point the finger at ‘London Labour’, even worse ‘Red Tories’, and of course, the grip of Westminster. Things aren’t always going to be so easy: opponents will be less incompetent, incumbents make mistakes, more powers are coming to the Parliament, and a decade of public spending cuts will take their toll. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »