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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Review’

Winston Churchill: The Man, the Myth, 1940 and Who can speak for Britain?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 16th 2018

Winston Churchill is everywhere at the moment. It is as if there are only two narratives about Britain’s past: the Second World War and dramas about people of privilege, class and money.

The Churchill industry can cover both strands, and for some his is the last uncontested great story of Britain. To others he is the last statesman who unreservedly represented the moral case for Britain; whereas for many on the left he has long been a problem figure. And all of this, while clearly about our past and the dark days of 1940, is also about the storm clouds gathering today – from Brexit to the widespread cynicism in politicians and institutions.

In the last year Churchill was portrayed in the film of the same name by Brian Cox, the peacetime Churchill featured in Netflix’s ‘The Crown’, and most recently he was played by Gary Oldman in ‘Darkest Hour’. The latter is the latest, concentrating on that watershed period in the Second World War in May 1940 where the Chamberlain Government totters and then collapses, Churchill becomes Prime Minister, and the War Cabinet debates whether to continue the war effort or to seek out peace terms. Read the rest of this entry »

The World in 2018: Trump, Brexit, Britain and the Scottish Debate

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 10th 2018

The New Year is always a time for reflection. I spent the Christmas and New Year break in the United States, providing an opportunity for reflection and a different take on the world.

Two and a half weeks in an American urban setting, even in one of the wealthiest and most creative clusters in the country around Boston and Cambridge, showcases what works and what doesn’t. Conspicuous wealth sits side-by-side crumbling infrastructure and poverty personified by the MBTA train system that looks like it last had serious investment in the 1950s or 1960s.

The American media have an understandable obsession with Trump – at the moment along with extreme weather. Britain is only visible through Brexit and the latest Royal wedding. One well-stocked secondhand bookshop for example had a large number of books in its British section, but on closer examination more than half were on the royals.

Brexit fascinates the Americans and gets some coverage, but isn’t really understood. Scotland is an afterthought at best, and often confused with Ireland. The only media mention of Scotland in the States during the holidays was the Cameron House Hotel fire by Loch Lomond. This shows that disasters and even mini-disasters can have global reach – as the 2014 Glasgow School of Art fire achieved, or in a different kind of implosion, that of Rangers FC. Read the rest of this entry »

Michael Marra: The Bard of Dundee and Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 13th 2017

Michael Marra – musician, artist and force for good – was a precious Scottish gem. He was unique in his art but also in his delivery and style; singularly understated, modest and often humble to the extent that at times he hugely underpromoted himself and his work.

It is worthwhile celebrating that the writer James Robertson has contributed his time and intelligence to produce a biography of Marra – ‘Michael Marra: Arrest This Moment’. This is a fascinating book, and important beyond the subject of Marra in addressing music, the creative muse, the role of the artist and culture, and having something to say about his home town (and mine) Dundee – and contemporary Scotland.

Michael Marra was born in Dundee on February 17th 1952, the fourth of five children, and grew up in Lochee, then as now a working class part of the city. After an unhappy time at school and several routine jobs, Michael found his voice as a singer and songwriter. Read the rest of this entry »

Are a ‘liberal elite’ really running Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 6th 2017

Is Scotland run by a ‘liberal junta’ or a ‘social junta’? This might seem a far-fetched notion but this is the charge made by Observer and Herald columnist Kevin McKenna (‘social junta’) and backed up by Iain Macwhirter (‘liberal junta’). I have enormous respect for both Kevin and Iain and value their many contributions to public life, but do think that on this they have got it badly wrong.

The argument put by McKenna in The Observer is that the Scottish Parliament is more focused on areas like tightening the ban on fox hunting, outlawing smacking on kids, and even minimum pricing on alcohol, than waging war on poverty and trying to support and change the lives of the poor.

This is in McKenna’s words ‘further proof of Holyrood’s obsession with the way ordinary people manage their families.’ In sweeping language he disses Scotland’s Parliament as a ‘collection of political confidence-tricksters’ who want to disguise ‘their wholesale betrayal of our poorest communities while blaming it all on the Tories.’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Ireland Question is not just about Ireland, but a selective view of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 29th 2017

Brexit has become a constitutional and political clusterfuck – a rolling embarrassment for Britain in a show that is set to run officially at least until 11pm on 29 March 2019, and in all probability for years after.

It is a crash between a right-wing Fantasyland version of Britain (witness Boris Johnson, Liam Fox and Jacob Rees-Mogg) and at the margins, a left-wing British exceptionalist story led by Corbyn which hopes, by keeping quiet, to pick up the pieces, all based on ignorance of history and the hard realities of politics and diplomacy.

Nowhere is the Brexit debacle more clearly evident than in relation to Northern Ireland and Ireland, and the boundary between them that emerges after the UK leaves the EU. This has huge consequences, as the three areas the EU prioritised for initial agreement with the UK are the border, the rights of EU citizens and the monies the UK will pay to leave. This will all come to a head at the EU summit on 14-15 December, with the UK Government’s pursuit of a hard Brexit – leaving the single market and customs union – meaning that the current porous border is under threat. A hard Brexit could lead to a hard border. 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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