Posts Tagged ‘Scottish society’

The Birth Pains of Scottish Democracy and the Anguish of ‘Posh Scotland’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 26th 2014

Many strange things will be written about Scotland this year. Some will be uncomprehending, some inappropriate or wrong, with others likely to be malevolent and wishing to sew seeds of confusion or distrust.

One existing strand is the pain expressed by some English media voices. There is the liberal ‘Guardian’ reading classes, some of whom have just bothered in the last few weeks to look north from their cosmopolitan concerns and to plea, ‘don’t leave us alone with the wicked Tories’. Then there is the ‘Daily Telegraph’/’Daily Mail’ land of ill-concealed anger about ‘separatism’, derogatory comments about Alex Salmond, and a confusion over whether they really want Scotland to stay or go.

Sometimes interventions cannot be easily categorisable, or while coming from one particular perspective, give voice to a viewpoint which hasn’t been expressed or articulated in public. This was the case with Hugo Rifkind’s recent piece on ‘posh Scotland’ (his words and sentiment) in ‘The Spectator’ and its clarion call to awaken and ride to the defence of the union in crisis.

Rifkind’s ‘posh Scotland’ wasn’t a place for anyone with decent prospects; this wasn’t, as he made clear, anything to do with Ed Miliband’s struggling middle classes, or by implication, ‘the middlin’ folk’ of Scotland. Instead, this was about privilege, wealth and power: the people who run things, own large tracts of Scotland, are privately educated, and believe that the state, if it has to do anything, is there for poor people (and keeping those people a safe distance from them). Read the rest of this entry »

Changin Scotland

A weekend of politics, culture and ideas …. And fun!

Friday March 28th-Sunday March 30th

The Ceilidh Place, Ullapool


In association with the Reid Foundation

Friday March 28th



Gerry Hassan and Jean Urquhart

Scotland after the Crash: The Collapse of RBS

Ian Fraser, author, forthcoming ‘Shredded: The Rise and Fall of RBS’ Read the rest of this entry »

The Art of Living Together and the Art of Dying

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, January 22nd 2014

Sometimes it takes outside voices to reinforce what you already know. So it was with Fintan O’Toole and the second in the series of Glasgow School of Art-University of the West of Scotland ‘Cultures of Independence’ seminars.

O’Toole is author of the acclaimed books, ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘Enough is Enough’ (1), both wonderful and powerful counter blasts to the baloney and bubble of the Celtic Tiger and its excesses.

He is of no doubt that Scotland is at a hugely important point in its history and that this isn’t just a narrow conversation and debate about constitutions, political and legal processes, and flags north of the border. Instead, this is a debate with huge consequences for England, for the rest of the UK, and with even global ramifications. This has come at a point where the first two are in significant flux and uncertainty due to Europe, economic and social change and the leviathan that is labelled ‘globalisation’.

O’Toole believes that Scotland has already been changing in ways which are irreversible and unfathomable to parts of Scotland and to most (if not all) of the London political classes. The old Scotland is dying, and a very different one is emerging; and at the same time, even more uncomprehending to some, the old England and Britain is disappearing, the loss and bewilderment from which can be witnessed regularly in the columns and letters pages of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and the rise of Ukip. Read the rest of this entry »

Dreams of my Father and an Elegy for a Lost Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Herald, January 5th 2014

Twenty years ago last October, my father, Edwin, died.

I was a young man at the time, in my late twenties, and my dad’s death was a major moment in my life, of maturing, of putting life in perspective, and of sadness.

In the months coming up to the anniversary of his death this year, his memory came more to the fore, as I reflected on his life and influence on myself. Truth be told, my father had in his last years not been an easy person to be in the same room with, and as well as loss I felt a sense of release when he passed away. As twenty years have passed, I am now more able to understand my father and the man who contributed to making me the person I am today. And I think that the values and ideas he represented can shed some light on where we are now and the choices we face next year in Scotland’s big debate.

My father was very political: a member of the Communist Party in Dundee in the 1970s and a NCR shop steward when that had a kind of status and power. He wasn’t a very active Communist; in fact, my mother, Jean, was the motivated one in our household, a community activist, organiser of rent strikes and protests and an editor of the local newsletter (where I began my first writing with a regular music column at the age of 14). Read the rest of this entry »

Why the Politics of Hope not Optimism are the Future

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, January 4th 2014

One of the great myths of modern life is the power of optimism.

Optimism, so the argument goes, can get you far. It can make you a winner, change individual life circumstances, make people rich or help them battle out of poverty.

In the world of politics and campaigning, optimism is seen by many as the key particularly in American Presidential elections – such as Ronald Reagan in 1984 (‘It’s morning again in America’), and Barack Obama in 2008 (‘Yes We Can’)  – both portrayed at the time as transformational messages (irrespective of what happened afterwards with the politics).

The SNP believe they won in 2007 and 2011 because they campaigned on a positive message and were the embodiment of optimism. They were also aided, they acknowledge, by the unremitting, unattractive nature of Labour negativity. Read the rest of this entry »