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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Social Democracy’

Is Scotland really a social democratic country?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 18th 2017

At last week’s SNP conference in the middle of her keynote speech, Nicola Sturgeon asked: ‘What kind of country do we want to be?’ She wasn’t expecting an answer, and seemed surprised when a member of the party faithful shouted out ‘an independent one.’

Behind Sturgeon’s non-question is the belief in Scottish difference, the efficacy of our values, and the link of both of these to the idea of Scotland as a social democratic country. Thus, around the conference chatter and commentary, Lesley Riddoch on Sky News spoke of ‘a social democratic consensus’ in Scotland, while Iain Macwhirter on the BBC talked of ‘a social democratic politics.’

Scotland as a land of social democracy has become the lexicon of our politics. It has accelerated under devolution, contributing to the mood music of the political environment and institutions. This has become even more pronounced under SNP rule, for obvious reasons, as the difference between Scotland and England politically is emphasised – Scotland social democratic good; England neo-liberal bad. Read the rest of this entry »

The Myth of the Great Leader: Gordon Brown, Jimmy Reid and Alex Salmond

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 1st 2016

The times they-are-a-changing. There is a tangible feeling in the air of discontent, anger and bewilderment. People feel let down and cheated by the multiple powers that be.

It isn’t surprising then that there is a palpable sense of national nostalgia depicted on TV – remakes fill the screens (Are You Being Served?, Porridge), while period dramas (Downton Abbey) or endless documentaries on World War Two and the Nazis are hugely popular.

The left aren’t immune to this either – having always had their own strand of radical nostalgia from primitive communism, to William Morris’s eco-utopia, the spirit of 1945, and the current vogue for ‘what would Keir Hardie say?’ Moreover, radical nostalgia now seems stronger than it ever has been on the left. It is conservative, about the past offering better prospects than the future, and denying the present and recent past. Jeremy Corbyn is a fitting embodiment of it: consistent and unchanging in his views since 1975, uncaring about electoral prospects, and without any evident self-criticism or original views.

The above view of the world is linked to one of the left’s great pillars – the Great Leader view of political change. Paradoxically, for a political tradition which is supposedly about collectivism, the left have bought into this individualist view of change. And of course, despite all the talk of equality, the left has been about brotherhood – so in Britain, the Great Leader has to be a man. 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 »

Scotland the Brave No More on Taxation

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, April 10th 2016

One theme has dominated this week in Scotland and the UK – taxation.

From April 6th 2016 the Scottish Parliament gained powers over a Scottish rate of income tax representing half of all income tax raised – and from next year it will have complete power over all this revenue.

The leak of the Panama Papers lifted a veil on the activities of the super-rich including 12 existing or former national leaders. David Cameron’s late father’s offshore tax arrangements became public, forcing Cameron’s office to make five statements on his tax affairs.

A new debate started among Scotland’s parties as they attempt to micro-differentiate; to show if they aren’t the Tories that they can mitigate ‘austerity’, and mark out alternative public spending choices.

Much of this is problematic. It is about relatively small amounts of money: Labour claiming to raise up to £110 million from a 50p tax rate on those over £150k; Lib Dems of £475 million with a 1p rise in the basic rate. Read the rest of this entry »

Labour’s Taxing Problems: The Party is fighting for its very existence

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, February 7th 2016

This week Scottish Labour made a move on tax. Is it a daring or desperate move?

It broke with the party’s position since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999 not to propose any tax increases. At the same time, as the SNP retained its stratospheric poll ratings for the May elections, the Tories drew level with Labour for second place, while Labour issued their regional list candidates with an obvious lack of ‘new blood’ or talent.

With the Scottish Parliament gaining more taxation powers now and in the near-future, Labour have decided, along with the Lib Dems, to break ranks, in arguing for an increase of one penny in income tax.

Even the Tories have had a Tax Commission which wants to introduce a new 30p band in-between the 20p and 40p bands. This failed on the first hurdle of what it was meant to be for: tax neutrality, increases or decreases. 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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