Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

The Myth of ‘Divided Scotland’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 16th 2014

One of the most oft-repeated descriptions of Scotland at the moment in the heat of the independence referendum is the problem of ‘divided Scotland’.

A Yes victory will leave a ‘deeply divided Scotland’ claimed Better Together chief Blair McDougall (Better Together, June 8th 2014), while a pro-independence website declared in response, ‘A deeply divided Scotland will be the result of a No vote’ (Arc of Prosperity, June 9th 2014).

Much cited recent polling shows that 38% of Scots believe divisions will remain whatever the referendum outcome, while 36% disagreed. In the same poll, 21% of people have had a row with family or friends about the vote. This latter finding led ‘The Independent’ to declare, ‘The Scottish independence debate has become venomous and fraught … pulling some families apart’ (June 15th 2014). Read the rest of this entry »

How to Make a New Scottish Democracy

Gerry Hassan          

The Herald, June 18th 2014

The contemporary Scottish independence debate is about many things and influences: the aspiration of some to make a new Scottish state, or to remain in the shared sovereignties of the UK. But another crucial influence is the state of the UK: its economic and social inequities and concentrations of power and wealth, and the failure of the progressive dream at a British level despite thirty years of Labour Governments in office over the post-war era.

Underpinning all of the above concerns is the fact that the UK is not and never has been a fully-fledged political democracy. This is recognised when the UK is described accurately as a constitutional monarchy or as a parliamentary democracy. Such constitutional figures as far apart as Enoch Powell on the right and Tony Benn on the left understood this. So too do parts of Britain’s political elite, but they shy away from conceding this or talking about it in public.

The reality is that the UK is increasingly influenced by the repackaging and representing of its past by its elites, and the appropriation of the voices of past generations like some once splendid country house fallen on hard times and telling tales of yesteryear. Read the rest of this entry »

The Crisis of BBC Scotland – A Lack of Vision, Integrity and Accountability

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 4th 2014

The independence referendum has thrown a spanner in the works of large parts of institutional Scotland.

So far the biggest meltdown has been CBI Scotland becoming a registered ‘No’ supporter, then baulking at the consequences. Another was the maneuvering of SCVO on the second referendum question and then being left on its own when the politicians agreed on a single question. But fast coming up the tracks in the incompetence stakes is BBC Scotland.

The latest instance is the axing of BBC presenter Gary Robertson after 24 years working for the BBC, 15 of them with BBC Scotland. Robertson has been got rid of for financial reasons. What is not officially acknowledged by the BBC, but obvious to everyone, is that this is directly related to recent decisions to hire on sizeable six figure salaries, Jim Naughtie and Sarah Smith. Read the rest of this entry »

There is more to life than politics in the Scotland of 2014

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 14th 2014

This is Scotland’s year of big decision: a historic and landmark date with destiny which, depending on individual political predilections, people have been waiting all their life for, or dreading, in equal measure.

Yet much of how we have defined and understood politics in Scotland historically has been narrow and constrained. There is the notion of independence as being about ‘the full powers of the Parliament’, a rather restricted view of change to put it mildly. Then there are the pro-union voices that see this as only a debate about the constitution, and oppose any attempt for it to connect to wider concerns, such as what kind of Scotland people want to live in.

Scotland’s debate is about more than politicians and politics. It is about the state of democracy, society, culture, confidence, hopes, fears and emotions, our collective and individual psychologies, and how we understand and construct our past and see our future.

2014 will see many books published on Scotland, addressing politics, constitutional issues, and the possibilities and pitfalls of independence. These are important issues at any point, and particularly when we have an independence referendum only months away, but they only capture a small part of what life is about in Scotland, and tend to represent that narrow, constricted idea of politics without understanding how problematic it is. Read the rest of this entry »

What does the rise of Ukip mean for Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 7th 2014

A new national pastime now exists thanks to the existence and rise of Ukip.

This is the round the clock coverage of the party: often mocking, filled with condescension and a barely concealed incredulity that sane citizens will consider supporting such a party. So far all this has seemed to do is feed the appeal that is the Teflon-like Ukip.

The media of course love and hate Ukip in equal measure. Nigel Farage is the joint most frequent panelist on ‘BBC Question Time’ over the last five years (equal with Tory Ken Clarke).  Whether it is Godfrey Bloom’s many bloomers on women, Africa and climate change, or Roger Helmer MEP (who is standing for the party in the Newark by-election) and his views on rape and gays, none of this so far seems to hurt Ukip.

We can debate the characteristics and qualities of Ukip but it is certainly a populist revolt against the modern world and contemporary UK. There is a rage against the machine, political orthodoxies and political correctness in the party, many of its representatives, members and supporters. Read the rest of this entry »