Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

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 »

The Glasgow Games, the Great War and A Requiem for the Post-War Dream

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, August 4th 2014

Two very different tales of a city and a country – Glasgow’s Commonwealth Games followed by the Glasgow Cathedral commemoration of the outbreak of World War One when the UK declared war on Germany.

The Commonwealth Games showcased Glasgow on a Scottish, UK and global stage, aided by ‘Team Scotland’s’ best ever haul of medals. The games profiled Glasgow as an international city and tourist destination – a transition which has been underway for at least the last 30 years. How big a change this is can be underlined by the British Association’s annual conference proceedings in 1958 which took place in Glasgow. In its foreword the association boldly declared:

Our visitors are likely to know little of us. Glasgow does not rank as a tourist attraction: the Glorious Twelfth takes them to the North, the Royal and Ancient to the East and the Festival to Another Place.

The Glasgow of the games was very different from this, and from the powerful hackneyed and miserablist images of the city which have crowded out other accounts. It came across as vibrant, full of stunning Victorian buildings and animated people, yet at the same time this was a carefully choreographed creation: the brand of ‘official Glasgow’ which has co-opted everything from the patter to the infamous traffic cone on the Duke of Wellington’s head outside the Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA). Read the rest of this entry »