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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Review’

Could Scotland really be reduced to the status of a region?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 18th 2017

When did present day Scotland begin? Not the ‘modern’ Scotland of post-war times, or the upside and then downside of Labour Scotland. But the land that we visibly live in today – shaped by the ghosts of industries long gone and the sins and excesses of Thatcher and Blair.

The conventional answer is 1979: the ‘Year Zero’ of Scottish sensibilities when, for many, the world was turned upside down with election of the Thatcher Government and the stalled first devolution referendum.

However, that is the view in retrospect. Thatcher didn’t unambiguously represent Thatcherism in 1979. Interestingly, most of Scotland’s non-Tory politicians and mainstream media didn’t represent it then the way we do now. For example ‘The Herald’ and ‘The Scotsman’ choose to interpret Thatcher’s first UK victory not in terms of the Scottish national dimension, but in British conventional left and right terms (neither of which were then as wedded to the constitutional debate as now).

In reality present day Scotland started somewhere between 1983 and 1987 – between the second Thatcher victory, the invention of the poll tax in 1985-86, and the third Thatcher victory in 1987: ‘the Doomsday scenario’ as it was called (meaning Scotland voted more Labour, but got a Tory Government based on English votes). Read the rest of this entry »

The Continuing Scottish Revolution: Time to Tell New Stories of Scotland

Scottish Review, January 10th 2017

Gerry Hassan

It has been an unprecedented political year, and 2017 will also be full of high drama – globally, across Europe, in the UK, and nearer to home in Scotland.

Politics isn’t everything. Just as important is culture – a word used and over-used, seemingly about everything and everywhere, but difficult, and sometimes impossible to pin down and define.

Culture when we forensically examine it can mean so many things. It can describe individual growth and enrichment. It can be about a group or community’s way of life. It expresses the activities of consuming culture. And finally, it is also used to define the way groups and organisations act and the codes and practices which shape them.

The many facets of culture and the propensity not to define then can be seen in our nation. We have a politics which is meant to be all-encompassing, but often evades detail and substance. Reinforcing this is a widespread characteristic of not wanting to define Scottish culture – for fear of ghettoising and marginalising. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland’s Radical Tradition is richer and more diverse than ‘Red Clydeside’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 14th 2016

The 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution will be in 2017. The seizure of power by Lenin and Trotsky in October 1917 was one of the central events of the twentieth century, took Russia out of the imperial quagmire that was the First World War, and led to revolutionary uprisings across Europe – from Berlin and Bavaria to Budapest.

Scotland had its own mini-version of this in ‘Red Clydeside’ and the series of events between 1911-19 – which saw agitation, protest and revolutionary fervor in parts of industrial West Scotland and which culminated in the bitter battle of George Square in January 1919.

‘Red Clydeside’ is much cited and also much misunderstood. There have been many in-depth studies of the period by the likes of Iain McLean and others showing that this wasn’t a mass revolutionary moment, but one of radicalism in places and government and ruling class panic in light of the Bolshevik revolution.

One strand constantly downplayed subsequently is how ‘Red Clydeside’ has been used as a spectre by middle class and bourgeois opinion as a sort of mobilising myth to scare people about the power of the mob and frighten them into being part of anti-socialist opinion. Thus ‘Red Clydeside’ has down the years equally served the mythologies of parts of the left and the reactionary right. Read the rest of this entry »

As Britain crashes and burns can Scottish politics embrace more humanity and substance?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 8th 2016

Britain is falling apart by the day. ‘British politics’ no longer exist in any form outside the House of Commons; ‘Brexit Britain’ is an inaccurate term considering the divided vote and kingdom; while the UK Government wastes our resources going to the Supreme Court to prevent a parliamentary vote actioning a referendum decision that was supposedly about parliamentary sovereignty.

It’s confusing isn’t it? Meanwhile Tory politicians and newspapers rail against judges as ‘Enemies of the People’, and the influence of millionaires in politics. At the same time, the self-titled ‘bad boys of Brexit’ led by Leave.EU donor Arron Banks plans to launch a new English-focused citizens movement. (Meanwhile, ‘The National’ responded with a front page of May and David Davis labelled ‘Enemies of the Scottish People’; a deliberate parody of the ‘Daily Mail’).

Such are the gathering absurdities of Lilliputian Britain. This is a place where the outdated, obsolete constitution which offers few real checks and balances on what central government can and cannot do, has been, after years of being weakened, finally and completely, been blown apart by Brexit. Suddenly and unexpectedly, the UK finds itself in a new location, its traditional institutions disorientated, and rather than this being seized on as a popular moment instead, plutocrats and millionaire bankrollers of Leave see it as a chance to reduce the UK to some kind of personal plaything. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland the Bold or Scotland the Timid?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 22nd 2016

Is Scotland really special? Are we a land that has bucked the retreat of the centre-left and social democracy, and proven itself immune to the right-wing populism sweeping the West from Brexit to Trump?

Significant parts of Scottish opinion are always looking for any reason to jump on a wha’s like us exceptionalism: one which invokes our morality, values and commitment to social justice, alongside our collective opposition to all things evil from Thatcherism and Blairism to neo-liberalism.

Truth of course is rather different. Scotland is both different and not that different, in comparison to the rest of the UK. Our social democracy isn’t immune from the dynamics that have weakened it elsewhere, and should not be confused with the electoral strength of the SNP – just as before it shouldn’t be equated with the once-dominance of the Scottish Labour Party. Read the rest of this entry »

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