Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Review’

Should I Stay or Should I Go? The Question of Europe, the UK and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 20th 2016

I am a European. I believe in Europe as an idea. And for all of my life I have felt an affinity and connection with the notion of greater European integration.

Now I am not so sure. When I was a child my parents voted in the 1975 referendum against the then EEC. I wasn’t convinced of their argument. The BBC were showing then John Terraine’s ‘The Mighty Continent’ – a history of Europe in the 20th century – narrated by Peter Ustinov.

This hooked me. It told Britain’s island story as part of the continent: of two World Wars, the depression and post-war boom, art and literature, and introduced me to the tragedies of the Hungarian uprising and Prague spring, both of which were snuffed out by Soviet tanks.

Britain was the sick man of Europe in the sixties and seventies. The German and, even to a lesser extent, French and Italian economies were both revered and feared – with faster economic growth, greater prosperity, and better labour relations between workers and management than the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

Dundee: City of Discovery and the West Dunbartonshire Question

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 13th 2016

Dundee, Scotland’s fourth city is on the move. It is often forgotten about or even patronised by those in the Central Belt – ‘it is a place I have only passed through’ is a regular refrain I have heard over the years – and is still seen by many, as my astute Dundonian Auntie Betty observes, as a ‘Cinderella city’.

In reality contemporary Dundee is a hive of energy, optimism and purpose. The V&A is coming, Malmaison is already making a mark, and there is a welter of activity and investment in the Waterfront beside the Tay Road Bridge.

While Dundee looks to the future, it also showcases its past – with the McManus Galleries refurbished, and Dundee’s Jute Museum (Verdant Works) portraying the complex contribution that this product has made to the wealth, commerce and working class history of the city. Could a genuine ‘Dundee: City of Discovery’ replace its reputation as Scotland’s most forgotten and neglected city? Read the rest of this entry »

Rainbow Nation Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 6th 2016

Scotland is a land of tolerance and acceptance in at least one respect.

Four out of six leaders of our main political parties are lesbian, gay or bisexual. Plus the Secretary of State for Scotland.

This is a far cry from the Scotland of old. Only sixteen years ago there was the near cultural war over Section 28/Clause 2a, centred on the supposed ‘promotion’ of homosexuality in schools, passed by the Thatcher Government in 1988. This episode saw Brian Souter and Jack Irvine lead a campaign against abolition which was nasty, illiberal and filled with fear and prejudice, and which hit a popular cord with parts of the public.

This Scotland was a land nervous and unsure of itself – doubting its attitudes on sexuality and homosexuality, but also much more. Whereas today, Scotland couldn’t seem more different and at ease in these areas. This is the country with the most lesbian, gay and bisexual leaders of political parties anywhere in the world, and was recently rated as the best country in Europe in terms of legal equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.

How has this happened? And how do we describe and understand such change? There is, for example, an element now of complacency and conformity in some strands of society – of assuming everything has changed for the better and that much or most of the struggle for equality socially (if not economically) has been won and is irreversible. Read the rest of this entry »

‘Arise Now and Be a Nation Again’: The neverending story of Scotland’s history

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 23rd 2016

Tom Devine has been a huge intellectual influence in Scotland in recent decades, having made major and thoughtful contributions to many important historical and contemporary debates.

His latest work, ‘Independence or Union: Scotland’s Past and Scotland’s Present’ is part a summary of his previous research, ‘The Scottish Nation’ and his work on Scotland’s Empire, seen through the prism of Scotland’s place and influence in the union.

This descriptive, wide-ranging book covers not only over 300 years of Scottish history, but huge changes, the rise and fall of ideas and powerful forces, along with this nation’s place in a wider context: most critically, its relationship with England, but also with its European neighbours, and Empire and Commonwealth. Devine, for much of this story has a real way of telling this, while giving a place for people, traditions and the many complexities involved.

Devine tells the story well of the Scotland pre and post-union, and the difficult dilemmas and competing pressures that parliamentarians and leaders had to weight up. There is a sense of balance and geo-political awareness for the Scotland of immediately before and the years after 1707, and the issues of Scottish autonomy in the union, London’s view of Scotland, the Scottish need for access to greater trade opportunities, the running sore of taxes and duties and the contradictory relationship between Jacobinism and the union alongside the role of Presbyterianism, which puts the 1715 and 1745 risings in proper context. Read the rest of this entry »

Donald Trump may be a one-off but his politics are not a one-off

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 16th 2016

Donald Trump may seem like a throwback to earlier, uglier times, but he is actually a very modern phenomenon.

He is easy for opponents to hate, ridicule and throw insults at – from ‘fascist’ (which he most certainly isn’t) – to racist, misogynist and demagogue which, whether they are right or wrong, get in the way of understanding his politics and their widespread appeal.

Donald Trump is favourite to win the US Republican nomination to be President of the United States, the most powerful nation in the world. This wasn’t meant to happen. The Republican establishment thought he would blow himself up, or go away after he had his fun and enlarged his fame. With it more than likely that he will face a damaged, discredited Hillary Clinton on November 8th, there is a chance next January will see the inauguration of President Trump. Did someone say season four of ‘House of Cards ‘was unrealistic? It hasn’t got anything on reality.

How did the United States end up in this mess? First and foremost, Trump cannot be seen in isolation. Instead, he is the cumulative creation of thirty years of toxic Republican rightwing delusion and fantasy. Once upon a time in America lunatic paranoia was the preserve of the revolutionary left: think the Black Panthers and the generation of 1968. Now it is anchored in, and has taken over acres of, the right, won large parts of the Republican grassroots, and has support in numerous shock jocks and outlets such as ‘Fox News’.

It is impossible to comprehend the degree of right wing extremism which has tainted and tormented the Republicans since Ronald Reagan. It vilifies and refuses to understand opponents, stigmatising welfare, poorer people, and black and ethnic minorities. Government is seen as an organised conspiracy, taxes evil, while almost anything is legitimate to win elections – from depriving millions of citizens of the right to vote, blatant gerrymandering, and stopping a state count via the Supreme Court (Gore v. Bush 2, 2000). Read the rest of this entry »

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