Posts Tagged ‘Sunday Times’

The Battle for Scotland and How It Can Change Britain

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Times, April 11th 2010

The Scottish election has begun – a contest taking place in a different land, terrain and politics from the rest of the UK.

This is a nation with two Parliaments and two Governments (one Labour, one SNP) where a Westminster election comes at another point in the Holyrood election cycle: three years into a relatively popular SNP Government. Westminster issues for England such as health and education are debated in the UK media as if devolution never happened, and Scotland along with Wales and Northern Ireland ignored or reduced to token coverage.

Scotland has a four party system different from the two and a half party system at Westminster – the Lib Dems squeezed by the adversarial culture of Labour v. Tory. Scotland even has four different electoral systems: FPTP for Westminster, Additional Member System for Holyrood, regional list for Europe, and Single Transferable Vote for local government.

While the Labour v. Tory battle is the big news story down south, Scotland is shaped by a much more subtle and nuanced set of party contests, the most important of which is Labour v. SNP. Read the rest of this entry »

Beginning a Conversation about Change and Glasgow:

A Discussion with Carol Craig

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Times, March 21st 2010

Glasgow is a place of complexity, many identities, of both dreams and problems. This is the city of ‘Glasgow: Scotland with Style’, the supposed new, vibrant city, and then there is the urban wasteland of gangland ‘No Mean City’. Then there is the Glasgow of fiction, film and prose, from James Kelman to Edwin Morgan.

Carol Craig’s new book on the city, ‘The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow’ is an attempt to address some of these contradictions. In particular, she has focused on looking beyond ‘the official story’ of what she sees as ‘trying to sell the city and play down difficulties’, and instead look at the other side of the equation, namely, the inequality, health, crime and violence, and examine what causes these and how real change can happen.

The book sets out to look at in Craig’s words ‘how we can explain social problems. We can look at aspects of the city in terms of cultural regeneration and the city centre, and say these are genuinely fantastic’, but they are only part of the story, and we wont bring about change by just ‘going on about the positives’. Read the rest of this entry »

The Strange Story of Labour Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Times, March 14th 2010

The Scottish Labour Party has always been a strange beast, misunderstood by many, but with a romantic, sentimental sense of itself.

It is a party which has won every Westminster election since 1959 – thirteen in a row – which makes this part of Scottish politics even more uncompetitive than the SPL!

What is interesting is how the party has done this and been changed in the process. For all its myths, Scottish Labour has achieved this success without being that popular. The party has never won a majority of the popular vote, and only come near once (1966 with 49.9%).

A contributory factor to Scottish Labour’s strength – and one which aided Thatcher down south in the 1980s – has been facing a divided opposition, shaped here by the long decline of the Conservatives and the failure of the SNP to mount a serious challenge until recently. Read the rest of this entry »

The Missed Opportunity of ‘Broonland’

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Times, February 28th 2010

Christopher Harvie, Broonland: The Last Days of Gordon Brown, Verso £8.99

Chris Harvie is a rare bird in the field sport of Scottish politics, a cultural and historical polymath and bon viveur who in part seems to belong from another era, one of Victorian romance, grand visions and eclectic ideas.

Harvie has spent most of his academic life in Baden-Wurttemberg in Germany and upon retiring came back to Scotland. Standing for the SNP in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, he found himself, as No. 5 on the list in Mid-Scotland and Fife, in the surprising position of being elected.

There is something joyously surprising and uplifting in today’s age of party automatons in Harvie’s election, a feeling added to by the sight of seeing him strutting around the Parliament, dressed like a character from some age of Tory squires or an Ealing ‘Victorian’ comedy. Read the rest of this entry »

The Making of the Modern SNP: What is it and where is it going?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Times, October 4th 2009

The SNP celebrates its 75th anniversary this year in good heart and mind. The party now finds itself two and a half successful years into office, having won the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections. It has been setting the political landscape of Scotland since, wrong-footing opponents and preparing to make progress towards holding an independence referendum.

The forthcoming week sees the publication of the first ever study of the contemporary SNP, ‘The Modern SNP: From Protest to Power’, addressing who the Nationalists are, where the party’s support comes from, looking at its ideals and policies and examining its thinking on independence. Read the rest of this entry »