Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

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 »

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 »