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The Good Ship Britannia Sinks Below the Waves: Scotland, Brexit and the Thoughts of Tim Shipman

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 13th 2018

The events of the last two days have shown how the British establishment, political classes and their supporters view the UK. There is the contempt and chaos in the Brexit process; ‘Taking Back Control’ has come down to running roughshod over parliamentary processes, Henry VIII powers, with Scotland being treated with the disdain of a mere fifteen-minute non-debate on the key Brexit bill. Similarly, crocodile tears for Northern Ireland were shown to be empty – with no debate and reference in yesterday’s session of mammoth votes for concerns about the border and the so-called ‘backstop’.

The reactions of our commentariat have been just as revealing. This is Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times and his description of devolution:

Powers were always owned by London and devolved down. They were never, and could never be, owned by Edinburgh. They’ll be devolved down again but legally they are in London’s gift. If you have a country, that’s how it works. You may not wish to be part of UK, but win a referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

Celebration and a Politics of Collective Joy is central to making Scotland’s Future

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 13th 2018

The sunshine has been out a lot in Scotland recently and in more ways than just the weather. It seems us Scots are feeling happier about things and more optimistic about the future – 36% look to the future with hope, whereas 29% of us feel that Scotland’s best days are behind us. Comparative English figures show that 17% feel optimistic about the future and 49% think that England’s best days are in the past.

The above figures tell us something about the state of Scotland and the state of England, of which Brexit is only a small part. This was part of the background to Nicola Sturgeon’s keynote speech to the SNP conference at Aberdeen where she had to deal with Brexit, independence stalled, and that the Growth Commission has annoyed a large section of her own supporters. It was a decent, well written and delivered speech with some good lines and three distinct parts: the record of the Scottish Government, Brexit and independence.

On the first part, Sturgeon listed an impressive range of Scottish Government achievements and actions which went beyond the usual shopping list. Instead, she cited minimum pricing for alcohol, a National Investment Bank, a transitional fund for businesses, a new Social Security Act with no rape clause, new support for carers, and an above cost of living pay increase for NHS staff. All in a tight corner and delivered by a devolved SNP Government in its eleventh year. Read the rest of this entry »

What would Power to the People really look like? And are our politicians ready to let go?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 6th 2018

The people are continually cited and invoked everywhere in democracies. Not only that but this is the age of directly asking the population via referendums – such is the disdain mainstream politicians are held in.

None of this is surprising. Politicians or most politicians talk a strange, discombobulated, evasive, managerialist language. They show in nearly everything they say and do that they are not to be trusted. Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson – he of supposed tarantula fame – cannot even answer a direct question from that pussycat of interviewers Richard Madeley on whether it was a wise choice of words to tell Russian leader Putin to ‘go away and shut up’.

Look at what happens when real life bursts into the political bubble. This is one way of seeing the phenomenon that is author and rapper Darren McGarvey on ‘BBC Question Time’ the other evening in Perth. Darren has become a rare voice who is not pigeonholed in modern day Scotland. In his book, ‘Poverty Safari’ he has written fearlessly about his own journey, weaknesses and mistakes, and importantly, learnt from them – embracing personal responsibility in a way which isn’t simply of the left or right. Read the rest of this entry »

A Tale of Two Nations and Becoming Normal: Ireland and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 30th 2018

Ireland has made international headlines in the last week as the country voted to legalise a woman’s right to choose, overturning decades of religious and moral dogma. Meanwhile in less dramatic terms Scotland’s debate on independence and its future has been shaped by the publication of the governing SNP’s Sustainable Growth Commission. The two have similarities in ways neither is aware of.

i) Ireland’s trust in its own people

Ireland’s debate was ostensibly about a woman’s right to choose and repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Irish constitution outlawing abortion. But really it was about much more. It was about the legacy of religious intolerance and authoritarianism, choice, respect, citizenship and the prospect of Ireland as a modern country embracing openness and optimism.

Ireland has been through an awful lot in the last decade. ‘The Celtic Tiger’ gave Ireland a swagger and confidence, followed by a decade of retrenchment and national re-examination. This, whilst difficult, has illustrated some of the strengths of Irish society in its adaptability and flexibility, but also its shortcomings as it has put the same flawed economic model back on the road. Read the rest of this entry »

The Royal Family, Britishness and Living in Disneyland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 23rd 2018

The Royal Family are an important part of what it means to be British, and whether you like them or loath them, they are one of the few remaining national symbols of cohesion which unite lots of people.

Yet the monarchy is more popular in some places than others. A recent Delta Poll for Policy Exchange showed that support for the monarchy ranged from 55% in England to 52% in Northern Ireland, 49% in Wales and 46% in Scotland. Asked if the monarchy was a unifying force after Brexit, 57% of respondents in England said it was, while Scotland was the only part of the UK where there was no majority for such sentiment with 46% support.

It is still true with these important caveats that the Royals are currently enjoying a wave of popularity – aided by the marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, but also on the back of the Queen’s survival, sense of duty, and even public silence on most issues. The Queen has been in public life for 62 years, while keeping an air of mystery about herself and what her own inner thoughts and beliefs are on most things. Read the rest of this entry »

Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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