Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Left Project, December 5th 2014

It is a frenetic, dynamic time to be living in Scotland – politically, culturally and in many other aspects of public life.

Nearly three months since the momentous indyref Scotland is still gripped by a sense of movement, possibilities and new openings – up to and beyond the 2015 and 2016 elections.

Yet at the same time in parts of the independence movement there are unrealistic expectations of political change, of belief that the union is finished, and that Scotland can embark on its destiny in the next couple of years.

Any radical politics has to have a sense of what is possible, to push it as far as it can, to understand timescales and how these dovetail with strategy. And critically it has to understand the political culture beyond its own boundaries – in the Scotland which voted No.

The independence referendum was a historic moment, an epic time in Scotland’s political evolution, and an awakening of the democratic impulse. Yet, it produced a comfortable victory for No and a defeat for Yes. For all the commentary that Yes won the campaign and that the idea of independence has been normalised, defeat has an upside: an opportunity and release which shouldn’t just be squandered. Read the rest of this entry »

Reflections on Turning Fifty in the Scotland of 2014

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 26th 2014

I knew from an early age I would turn 50 in 2014.

It was simple maths. At age eight, reading the ‘Tell Me Why’ encyclopedias of facts and figures, I became aware of a sense of time. Apparently the sun would explode in around five billion years wiping out all life on planet earth and any chance I had of immortality. And at around the same time, confronted with this reality, I worked out that I would be 36 in 2000, 50 in 2014 and 86 in 2050. Plenty time I thought for lots of plans and dreams.

Often the concerns of an over-bright boy or girl confronted with the mysteries of life and universe, are about trying to place yourself and idea of self in it. Whereas, in actual fact, these are deep, timeless and philosophical questions which have taken up the time and efforts of some of our greatest thinkers.

I grew up as an only child with a palpable self-consciousness, large amounts of time and space for reflection, and a constant curiosity and hunger to find out more about the world. It was, as a young boy a big positive, not to have siblings. I had no one I had to share a bedroom with, or be bullied by, or look out for and protect from bullying at school or in our neighbourhood. And I had both quiet and room for contemplation and my own private world when I wanted to retreat to it. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »