Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

Time Travel: the Parallel Universe of Post-ref Scotland and the Voice of Doubt

Gerry Hassan

Twenty five years ago this coming Sunday an event occurred which changed our lives and is still shaping much of the modern world: the fall of the Berlin Wall.

This brought about the demise of the Soviet bloc, the end of the Yalta settlement which had divided Europe from 1945, the unification of Germany, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and with it, its monolithic variant of Communism and any aspirations it had to making and being the future.

Much of the last 25 years flows from those tumultuous events in November 1989: the European integrationist project and the arrival of the euro, the certainty that Western political democracy had somehow defeated all other political alternatives which became hubris, and its subsequent decline and hollowing out at the hands of a self-interested crony corporate capitalism.

Scotland and Britain haven’t been immune from these potent political and economic tsunamis. Yet, there is a powerfully and noisily articulated feeling in parts of Scotland that we have somehow successfully resisted these forces, and can do so more in the future. This is seen in the pale version in the nostalgia for the British post-war settlement, and in more radical expressions, that Scotland can challenge neo-liberal orthodoxies and embark on a radically different progressive course, which no one else has yet succeeded at. Read the rest of this entry »

When Britannia Ruled the Waves

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 22nd 2014

The act of sailing has long been one of the ways humans have tested themselves, measuring their endurance, reflecting on life and its meaning, from Ernest Hemingway to Jonathan Raban’s ‘Coasting’, an account of sailing round Britain at the time of the Falklands war.

The experience of cruising in pleasure boats, ocean liners and luxury ships is a very different world. One filled with images of a mix of ‘Casino Royale’ and Monte Carlo stereotypes, rich playboys, people gambling and endless hedonism.

The reality is a bit different in what is a multi-billion pound industry which caters for all sorts of different interests and incomes. This was illustrated by my recent ten day cruise on the Fred. Olsen ship the MS Black Watch which sailed from North Shields across the North Sea to the Baltic, stopping off in Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Oslo, and sailing up the Kiel Canal.

The Black Watch first came into service in 1972 and like all Olsen liners is a middle sized ship compared to the behemoths being built for the ever opulent who wish to maintain their lifestyle on the seas. Captained by Finnish Mikael Degerlund, the ship had 765 passengers from nine countries, most from the UK, and 340 crew from eighteen countries. Read the rest of this entry »

A Hopeful Guide to Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 17th 2014

This week, depending on the building US-UK government clamour for more military action in Iraq, Scotland will be the biggest story on the planet. News crews and journalists from all over the world are covering this. Glasgow and Edinburgh hotels are enjoying an unexpected bonanza with high occupancy rates. For at least one week, James Robertson’s famous dictum about ‘The News Where You Are’ will be met by the shock that for a short while, ‘The News Where We Are’ will be the same!

It has, of course, been to some discomforting and there have been some problematic things said and done. To groups such as CBI Scotland and other parts of corporate clubland, all of this has been at best a distraction, and at worst, a threat to the cosy back channels and insider deals of closed Scotland which have for so long defined how things were done.

For many others, it has been uplifting and life-enhancing. Scotland will never be the same again. Nor will Britain. But there is a need in such heady times for calmness and reflection, and understanding the scale and kind of change – noting what has been radically altered and what hasn’t – and the power and resilience of establishment Scotland. In this eve of poll essay, I will do this by addressing five M’s – movements, momentum, miserablism, magic and maturity. Read the rest of this entry »

Tom Devine, the Indy Ref and the Myths of Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 20th 2014

The independence referendum to some is their lifeblood; to others it is a distraction; but what it inarguably has done is to reveal much about what Scotland is, thinks and feels.

Something interesting happened this week when respected historian Tom Devine came out for independence. His reasoning was, he said in an interview in ‘The Observer’ that, ‘It is the Scots who have succeeded most in preserving the British idea of fairness and compassion in terms of state support and intervention’.

The above says many things about Scotland and Britain. The British idea of ‘fairness’ is close to a foundation story: from the British gentlemanly code of conduct which was meant to inform the establishment, to the Whig view of history, and Empire as a supposed civilizing force for good the world over. It was also meant to have informed, once the plebs proved rebellious, the basis for the post-war welfare state.

Alongside this is the idea of a Scottish expression of the post-1945 British dream that we have somehow remained faithful to, while according to Devine and many others, England has increasingly rejected such values. ‘Fairness and compassion’ are to Devine what characterise modern Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »

What does it take to be a good man in Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 6th 2014

This is the day after the first gladiatorial debate between Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling – two respectable, rather conventional, men of similar age only divided by the constitutional question.

A large part of the independence debate like significant elements of Scottish public life is defined and shaped by gender and in particular, the behaviour, actions and views of some men.

For decades Scottish politics, at Westminster level, was a male-only zone; as recently as 1979 only one woman Scottish MP was elected. Similarly many of the positions of power in corporate life and boardrooms are male dominated, and by men of a certain narrow disposition in terms of social background, attitudes and interests.

During that period, the public and voluntary sectors in Scotland have more dramatically changed and in so doing in many places look more diverse and representative of society. Indeed, across Scotland in the last 20-30 years there has been an untold story of the increasing feminisation in work, society and of the attitudes and expectations of many men and women. Read the rest of this entry »