Posts Tagged ‘Social Democracy’

Is Social Justice Really What Defines Modern Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 8th 2014

There are many Scotlands and there are many realities, lives and experiences which do not find favour or voice in prevailing public descriptions.

Many of our dominant versions give centrestage to politics, which isn’t all there is to life anywhere. Think of Yes and No, unionism and nationalism, left and right, Labour and SNP, Tory and anti-Tory. These are all politically restrictive labels in which some see themselves, and that define others who are different to them.

How much of Scotland do these terms capture and miss out? Which of the above can really claim to speak for all, or even most of, Scotland? Indeed, is it possible at the moment to describe and do justice to the diverse and contradictory realities of this country?

Last week I caught two versions of very different Scotlands. On one day I spoke to the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) on Scotland after the referendum. People at this event were animated, informed, and fully aware of divergent forces and tensions – Scottish, British, European and global – which influenced their work. They recognised that there was a distinct Scottish political environment, a version of SNP machine politics, problematic Westminster politics, and a Tory Party agenda which was going somewhere unpleasant with its mix of populism and scapegoating. 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 »

Is Scottish Labour Having a Good Independence Referendum?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 9th 2014

Scotland is on the move. The polls have shown a significant shift towards Yes. One poll so far has produced a Yes lead, a watershed moment not just in the campaign, but also in the history of Scotland and the UK.

Change is all around us. There is the enthusiasm of Yes; the incompetence and fear of No; the distrust in Westminster, Cameron and Miliband (the latter two earning each 23% trust ratings in Scotland), and the quiet sentiment that the Scottish Parliament is best suited to take the legislative decisions which affect the people of this land.

Yes and No are both running dual campaigns. With Yes there is the SNP (and its extension Yes Scotland) and the unofficial ‘third Scotland’; whereas with No there is the division between Better Together and Downing Street. The two Yes camps work in an uneasy, creative partnership, while the two No camps are characterised by tension, miscommunication and misunderstanding.

It isn’t an accident that the historic YouGov poll putting Yes ahead for the first time was met by two contradictory responses: Chancellor George Osborne promising ‘more powers’ and Better Together head Alistair Darling ruling these out ; while to confuse matters further the sole trader in the indyref Gordon Brown came up with his own timetable of reform. Read the rest of this entry »

The Strange Death of Liberal England Continued

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 30th 2014

Liberal England is in a state of confusion. There is the challenge of the Scottish independence referendum, the continued right wing drift of UK politics, and the slow detachment of the UK from the European Union.

All of the above cause apoplexy and dismay to the thinking elements of the English left. One response to this from people such as Labour MP John Cruddas and Billy Bragg is to try to re-ignite the English radical imagination and challenge the increasingly English nationalist overtones of Nigel Farage’s UKIP. A second response from the likes of Ken Loach and Owen Jones believe in the ‘Spirit of 45’ being invoked shaped by romanticism and simplistic, wishful thinking.

However, the largest group by far on the English left in intellectual circles is in denial about the state of Britain. This is not a happy or confident time to be a progressive in England, and despite the actions of thirty years of post-war Labour Governments (thirteen of them under the recent auspices of New Labour), it cannot be claimed seriously that Britain is becoming a better, fairer place. Progressive politics has given up believing that it can create the future, instead pessimistically sensing that the right have the best tunes to fit our times and laid claim to tomorrow. Read the rest of this entry »

A Time for Boldness and Honesty: 21st Century Scottish Radicalism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, July 23rd 2014

The independence referendum has seen an explosion of radical and progressive thinking and activism. Where there was once silence and disillusion, now there is hope, excitement and imagination.

There is the generosity and pluralism of National Collective, the breadth and reach of the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC), and the energy and dynamism of the Jimmy Reid Foundation. Then there is a wider set of trends looking at how to develop a deeper democracy from the work of So Say Scotland and its Citizen’s Assembly, ‘the art of hosting’ processes, and the Electoral Reform Society’s work on deliberative democracy.

The above – with all its undoubted positives – has to be put in historical and political context, understanding the shortcomings and failures of the left generally, and the Scottish left in particular. This is an essential prerequisite if this outburst of energy and radicalism is to have a lasting effect on the Scottish body politic. Read the rest of this entry »