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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

Living the High Life and Post-War Dream in Dundee

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 28th 2017

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy tower blocks and social housing are everywhere in the news.

Much of it has been ill-informed, instant commentary. People asserting that tower blocks aren’t suited to modern living or making sweeping statements about the failings of council and social housing, A large part of this seemed to be a displacement or discomfort of middle class opinion having to talk about a forgotten and neglected section of the country, and confront the living conditions of large numbers of poor people.

Housing is a topical subject. Long neglected by the British political classes it has become a social and generational scandal – one that has overlooked millions of people, and in particular, younger people, from owning or renting a decent home. It is all a far cry from the Thatcherite hubris of a ‘property owning democracy’ in the 1980s: a phrase which came of age in the 1950s and which was invented by the Scottish Tory Noel Skelton in the 1920s. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotching the Myths of Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 7th 2017

Cultures and nations live by myths. This has been so since the dawn of civilisation and has never been more apparent in recent weeks, in the wake of the terrorist attacks in Manchester and London that have so dominated the first half of 2017 in Britain and the UK general election.

The popular slogan invoking the spirit of the Blitz and World War Two – ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ – embodies how the British like to see themselves when under pressure. There is stoicism, a determination to continue with everyday life, and a quiet patriotism that is more about what makes people proud of this country than feeling superior to others.

This of course is part of the foundation story of Britain of the UK standing alone in the past and future – apart from Europe – and drawing from a seamless thread of uninterrupted British history. Never mind the facts. It doesn’t matter that there was an English Civil War in the 17th century, that the UK only took its name in 1801, or that its current legal name (the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) is a mere ninety years old, defined in law in 1927 after Ireland left in 1922. All nations and states have similar stories, selective memories, and deliberate remembering of some things and forgetting of others. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry seems to be the hardest word in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 17th 2017

Power and privilege seldom likes to have to openly reflect on its place in front of others.

Instead, power likes to present its position as a natural state of affairs – to just be, manifesting and imbuing a sense of its own importance. This is how power exerts and expresses itself, from the City of London to senior bankers and the forces of international capitalism.

The same is true of Scotland and in recent years this has been aided by, in significant areas, power being in flux, challenged and even in crisis. This has in places forced it to openly talk about itself and hence its position. Examples of this include Royal Bank of Scotland after the crash, the Catholic Church and its serial scandals, or the implosion of CBI Scotland in the indyref.

Across a number of public institutions a common pattern can be observed about the way power and privilege operate when they are challenged. The three different examples chosen to illustrate this are one traditional force which imploded (Glasgow Rangers FC), one body which has played a central role in society (BBC Scotland), and another which has relatively recently become one of Scotland’s dominant institutions (the SNP). Read the rest of this entry »

When were the Swinging Scottish Sixties?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 22nd 2017

The 1960s are referenced throughout the world as a period of immense change, hope, protest and turbulence.

There were ‘the winds of change’ of decolonisation, Latin American revolts and rebellions, the Chinese cultural revolution, upsurges in Paris and Prague, Biafra, the disastrous American military intervention in Vietnam and resultant protest movement in the US and worldwide.

What though did the sixties really represent? In the UK the sixties began with Philip Larkin and the trial of D.H. Lawrence’s ‘Lady Chatterley’s Lover’; in the US they were augmented by the assassination of JFK in Dallas in 1963. In both there was a shared moment – in early 1963 in the UK, and February 1964 in the US, with the arrival of the Beatles then morphing into a musical and cultural phenomenon the world had never seen before: Beatlemania.

In the UK this aided the overthrowing of the stuffy last remnants of Victoriania, the long shadow of the Second World War, and class-bound high culture. This was epitomised in John Lennon’s now seemingly innocent remark at the Royal Variety Performance in November 1963 in front of the Queen Mother that ‘the people in the cheaper seats, clap your hands. And the rest of you, if you’d just rattle your jewelry’. This was a national moment, shown on TV and immortalised in the press. Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering childhood holidays in Scotland and my first venture into politics

Gerry Hassan

July 20th 2016

Everybody’s first experiences of summer holidays are always likely to be special – tinged with evocative memories and memorable moments.

My earliest recollection of a summer holiday was the sojourn from Dundee to Girvan in 1969, just before I went to primary school. This trip involved my dad’s light green coloured Volkswagen Beetle; the experience of which left me with a deep-seated affection for such cars.

It was the only family holiday on which my maternal granny, Flo (who my mum never got on with all her adult life) also came along. I was too young to pick up any antagonisms between the two, such were the diversions of the Girvan beach and making sandcastles. But it was also my first ever experience of staying in a hotel, and one which overlooked the sea, and the mightily impressive Ailsa Craig.

I cannot remember anything else about the accommodation bar the view, but I do recall clearly two moments of the break. One was going to Souter Johnnie’s cottage in Kirkoswald, Ayrshire, and being trapped in the garden with the statues when the place closed for the day. My parents, like David Cameron once, took a few minutes to realise they were missing a child, even though they only had one, and in that short time, I was petrified that the statues were going to come alive. Read the rest of this entry »

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