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Labour’s problem with anti-semitism matters for our democracy

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 8th 2018

It is truly a summer of madness; think of the challenges facing the UK, Europe and the world. What has been convulsing the British Labour Party all through this trying, testing times? Namely, the issue of anti-semitism.

This hasn’t come from nowhere. Jeremy Corbyn has been leader of Labour for three years, and for this entire period this issue has been a running sore. There was Ken Livingstone and his remarks on ‘when Hitler was supporting Zionism’, there was the Shami Chakrabarti review into anti-semitism in the party, the Tower Hamlets mural and most recently, the controversy over Labour’s NEC’s adoption in part of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) guidelines without four of the examples.

There followed the revelations of Pete Willsman’s comments at the NEC which adopted the IHRA guidelines, and closer to home, Fife Labour councillor Mary Lockhart complaining that all of this was whipped up by ‘a Mossad assisted campaign’ trying to stop a Corbyn government, while a Dundee councillor George McIrvine shared a Facebook post stating: ‘There are only nine countries left in the world without a central Rothschild bank … Isn’t it funny we are always at war with these countries.’ Lockhart was suspended; McIrvine investigated; and there are no Rothschild-controlled central banks anywhere. Read the rest of this entry »

What comes after Creative Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 1st 2018

Festival time is upon us again in Edinburgh. The yearly jamboree of the various Festivals and Fringe take over our capital city, bring a select part of the world to our shores, and give a platform which presents a vibrant, dynamic Scotland on an international stage.

At the same time all is not exactly well in the official world of culture in Scotland. Two weeks ago, the publically funded body, Creative Scotland, lost its second head, Janet Archer, in its relatively short history.

Archer resigned after a troublesome year. There was controversy in January when Creative Scotland announced its long-term funding of arts and cultural bodies, jettisoning 20 major arts companies from its regular support list, reducing it in others, and then when pressurised, engaging in a hasty U-turn reinstating funding for five bodies, and finding more monies to ease some of the losers. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »