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People Make Glasgow: Let’s live up to that phrase after the GSA fire

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 27th 2018

Glasgow is a proud and vibrant city. William McIlvanney, who must count as the sage of this city, beautifully described it when he wrote:

Glasgow is a great city. Glasgow is in trouble. Glasgow is handsome. Glasgow is ugly. Glasgow is kind. Glasgow is cruel. Some people in Glasgow live full and enlightened lives. Some people in Glasgow live lives bleaker than anyone should live – and die deaths bleaker than anyone should die.

These words were written in 1987, but are equally true today. Glasgow has many sides and stories. It is a city of contradictions and paradoxes. All that pride and belonging – and yet, sitting alongside it, dislocation, apathy, mediocrity and in places, hurt and pain.

Glasgow School of Art’s second fire seems a tipping point for the city. One of its main arteries, Sauchiehall Street, is blocked off at two ends. Two fires have affected the street in a couple of months. Victoria’s nightclub burned down in mysterious circumstances with that landmark of city music hall and revelries The Pavilion still out of operation. Now follow the GSA Mackintosh building, an international cultural beacon, along with the ABC music venue. If that were not bad enough, a host of traders and businesses along Sauchiehall Street have been temporarily shut, including the Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA), while others still open have seen their trade affected by the street’s closure. This is becoming a crisis for the city centre; and for Glasgow as a cultural centre and tourist destination. Read the rest of this entry »

Brexit is aiding the break-up of Britain but this crisis has deeper roots

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 20th 2018

Brexit isn’t going well. Two years after the referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU there is still no agreed plan on what kind of Brexit the UK Government wants. Theresa May’s administration staggers from day to day – too weak to dare to define what it stands for – facing regular crises, critical parliamentary votes and defeats.

Last week, after Scottish affairs was reduced to 15 minutes in the House of Commons, the SNP walked out during Prime Minister’s Questions, resulting in much media comment and headlines. But as the immediate shockwaves die down – does any of this have any longer term impact?

A short summary of events so far might be helpful. The UK Government’s Brexit plans have consequences for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the government meant to consult the three territories on what powers come back to the nations as a result of Brexit. Northern Ireland hasn’t had a devolved government since January 2017; Wales has, after much disquiet, given its agreement, but the Scottish Government and Parliament has not agreed with the latter withholding its consent from Brexit. All parties in the Parliament – SNP, Labour, Lib Dem and Scottish Green – agreed that the Tory form of Brexit is not acceptable – with only Ruth Davidson’s Tories siding with Westminster. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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