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Where will the new ideas for Scotland’s public services come from?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 19th 2019

Scotland seems to be at an uneasy, calm place at the moment. The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon yet still seem distant – from the threat of Brexit and even worse the car crash of a No Deal Brexit – to the expected arrival of Boris Johnson as Tory leader and UK PM, while alongside this the Scottish Government demands that the UK Government listens to it on Brexit, so far to no avail, and considers how to progress a second independence referendum.

At the same time the Scottish Parliament has turned twenty. This milestone offers the chance to assess where we are, and the impact of devolution over the past two decades. For one, Scotland has been blessed by an absence of the fragmented, divided public services which exist in large parts of England, and which have seen, for example, huge sections of the NHS given over to private providers such as Virgin Healthcare and US health care companies.

Yet much of Scotland’s policy journey over the past two decades has been by default: by choosing not to do what England has done. This is namely the road of corporate capture of public services, marketisation, outsourcing, and continual reorganisation: a pattern evident under New Labour in England and continued by the Tories. Significant sections of Scotland rightly take pride from the fact that we have mostly resisted this approach, but it still begs the question: what are the big achievements and landmarks of public services in Scotland these past two decades? Read the rest of this entry »

‘Seven Up’, Class and Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 12th 2019

Last week saw a significant moment in TV programming when ITV broadcast the latest in the legendary series ‘Seven Up’, namely ’63 Up’. Michael Apted began first as a researcher then Director tracking fourteen seven year olds in 1964 and has subsequently returned to them every seven years since.

Over the past 55 years one of the fourteen has died (Lynn) and two have withdrawn leaving us with eleven people who contributed to the current edition of this bold experiment in broadcasting and social history. ’63 Up’ is reality TV in its true meaning rather than the self-declared faux ‘reality TV’ of the likes of ‘Big Brother’ and ‘Love Island’.

The series tells us many things about not just the individuals in question and their lives, but wider society. A soft, unstated idealism – or perhaps more accurately, a sense of public duty and care – informs the entire series to this day and is present in the current installment.

The ‘Seven Up’ series has a respect and humanity sadly rare in today’s TV. There is a trust and set of deeply embedded relationships between Apted and his interview subjects. The central characters who give the programme its purpose and uniqueness are shown a degree of respect and affection which is a rare commodity in the increasingly harsh, exploitative world of ‘reality TV’. Read the rest of this entry »

Jo Swinson, Govan and Social Justice

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 4th 2019

The Liberal Democrats have a spring in their step. After years of taking a kicking and coming to terms with the near-complete wipeout of 2015, they have stormed back into the reckoning winning second place in the European elections. They feel that with Labour and Tories in trouble, the wind is blowing in their favour, and that they can offer a pan-British voice for Remain.

There is the hope of a fresh start with a leadership contest. This pitches Scottish MP Jo Swinson against Sir Ed Davey. Davey was a Cabinet minister in that coalition with responsibility for energy, while Swinson was junior equalities minister outside the Cabinet. Also rather germane it that Swinson managed to secure some successes which outlived the Lib Dem period in office on maternity and paternity rights.

The record and actions of the coalition hang heavily over the Lib Dems. Voters remember their broken promises, in particular, the volte face on student tuition fees, which saw the party’s MPs, Swinson and Davey included, support the introduction of £9,000 fees. Ultimately it was the Tories who gained most from the Lib Dems period in office, with David Cameron using them as a human shield. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there any hope for Scottish Labour? And does it matter to the rest of us?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, June 2nd 2019

Scottish Labour once carried all before it. They were admired by some, feared by others. They couldn’t be ignored, were taken seriously and mattered.

Today the party is not only struggling to be taken seriously by anyone, but has to fight for attention, battling to avoid the ignominy of being seen as irrelevant by most voters.

Many will say ‘hell mend them, they deserve their fate’ but the collapse of this once powerful party has consequences well beyond it. It begs the question – what wider impact does this have and is its shrunken condition terminal?

It is salutary to remind ourselves of what a state Labour are in. The party won a mere 9.3% of the vote in the Euro elections in Scotland. It lost its two MEPs, including the respected David Martin, the longest serving British MEP. Read the rest of this entry »

The Story of Rose Reilly: A Scottish Football Pioneer

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 29th 2019

Scottish football is on the way up – at the international level, in quality, achievements and in its recognition by others. Our national team has just beaten the mighty Brazil for the first time ever, and if that were not enough, has qualified after a long fallow period for the World Cup finals taking place this summer in France.

This is not some parallel universe or fantasy Scotland, but actually what is happening now in women’s football which is currently undergoing a renaissance, and belatedly beginning to get the recognition it has long deserved.

It has been a long and difficult journey to get to this. Previously the Scottish women’s game was marginalised, patronised, dismissed, and even, the subject of banning for much of the 20th century, which denied at least two generations of talented women the opportunity to play football at a senior level in this country. Read the rest of this entry »

The People’s Flag and the Union Jack: An Alternative History of Britain and the Labour Party
Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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