Posts Tagged ‘The Scotsman’
The Problem of Patriotism and the Left
The Scotsman, December 7th 2013
This week Keith Vaz, chair of the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee, asked the ‘Guardian’ editor Alan Rusbridger, ‘Do you love your country?’.
This was in relation to the ‘Guardian’s’ publication of some of Edward Snowden’s leaked documents on the activities of the US-UK surveillance state. Rusbridger, clearly surprised by the question answered in the affirmative, ‘We are patriots. One of the things we are patriotic about is the nature of democracy and a free press’.
Patriotism, for all the uses and misuses of Dr. Johnson’s quote about it being ‘the last refuge of the scoundrel’, has proven a messy battleground. Many on the right in Britain view it unconditionally, while large parts of the left see it as reactionary and to be resisted. To add to this many on the right have used it down the years to smear and undermine the left.
Vaz has yet to explain his comments, but even elements of the right-wing press found them hard to defend. The ‘Daily Telegraph’s’ Dan Hodges called it a straightforward ‘definition of McCarthyism’; while the usually pugnaciously right-wing ‘Daily Mail’ Quentin Letts found it an uneasy, uncomfortable use of words. Read the rest of this entry »
The British economic model is bust. Can Scotland be different?
The Scotsman, November 30th 2013
Just over 18 months ago the much-respected journal, ‘The Economist’, turned its attention to Scotland and the independence debate with its famous ‘Skintland’ issue.
Its front cover was deemed offensive by some for the names it gave to imagined towns and areas that emphasised the world of no hope on offer from independence – ‘Grumpians’, ‘Loanlands’, ‘Glasgone’, ‘Edinborrow’ and many more. Inside the magazine’s editorial declared that Scots had to face their decision on independence ‘in the knowledge their country could end up as one of Europe’s vulnerable, marginalised economies’.
Since then quietly and unnoticed ‘The Economist’ has been charting some of the success stories of the Scottish economy. It has noted what is happening in the world of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in an Ernst and Young survey for 2012. London with 22% of UK GDP took 45% of FDI, while Scotland has the highest figures for anywhere apart from London – taking with 8.3% of population, 16.1% of FDI. Read the rest of this entry »
The crisis of Britain’s institutions is one of the labour movement too
The Scotsman, November 23rd 2013
One of the defining characteristics of the Labour Party through the ages has been its moral dimension – its indignation at the inequities and injustices of a rotten, economically and socially divisive capitalist system.
It has critiqued this via its early socialist, radical and religious roots – more Methodist than Marx, more the Bible and ‘The Ragged Trousered Philanthropist’ than ‘Das Capital’.
As politics and society have changed – the post-war consensus, Thatcher, New Labour – these strands have weakened but remained. There was a hope amongst some that post-Blair and Brown Labour would recover its core principles and purpose and make the case against an economic, social and political system which has clearly lost its way.
Events have proven to be a bit trickier than that. The crisis of British capitalism, its traditional establishment and the world of clubland and ‘gentlemanly capitalism’ are deep rooted. The forces of new capitalism and its brash elites in the City, hedge funds and outsourcers, has proven even more anti-social, selfish and brutal than the old one. Read the rest of this entry »
The continuing relevance of solidarity and class
The Scotsman, November 16th 2013
Scotland has been informed by the experiences and memories of working class life and culture since the time of the industrial revolution.
A majority of Scots see themselves as working class and more people do now than over a generation ago in 1979.
In a strange turn of affairs, being working class post-crash is all the rage nowadays. It might not be the sixties when being working class was associated with the age of meritocracy and tearing down the old elites, but change is in the air.
The mantras of the long British bubble now seem from another age: the prospect of ‘a classless society’ invoked by John Major and Tony Blair’s delusion that ‘we are all middle class now’ look even more preposterous. Even Major has woken up to the new realities of class and privilege. Read the rest of this entry »
The Missing Voices of Public Life and How We Create a Different Scotland
The Scotsman, November 9th 2013
To many of the tribes and partisans who inhabit our public life, all that matters is the contest and defeating their opponents. Democracy and politics in this mindset are in fine working order, beyond the difficulty of trying to get your own way!
In reality, Scottish democracy barely exists in any meaningful sense. The 1707 settlement guaranteed the autonomy of ‘the holy trinity’ of Kirk, education and law, giving prominence to these institutional identities, which came to the fore as government and its affairs of state went south.
Then distinctive Scottish administration from Victorian times began to expand and in so doing another definition was added: that of the dynamic, managerial do-er. This was an apolitical, often bureaucratic identity: the world of Lord Reith, Walter Elliot and Tom Johnston.
So it remained until the arrival of the SNP shook things up in the 1960s, and then finally the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. To some this has democratised and nornalised Scotland, but it has left underneath and around the Parliament the same institutions and networks running most things. Read the rest of this entry »