Tags
| | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | |

Whatever happened to the springtime for democracy?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 18th 2018

Three decades ago democracy was the future and carrying all before it. The Soviet bloc was collapsing, the South African apartheid regime was crumbling – and all across South America brutal dictatorships were being replaced by democracies (however imperfect) symbolised by the fall of the Pinochet junta.

Today the state of the world could not look more different and feel less optimistic. There are still many more democracies than there even a decade ago, but somehow the springtime for people power promised three decades ago has got lost, and the promise of democracy seems to be in retreat, with authoritarian leaders and the appeal of populism on the rise.

The reasons for this are many and oft-cited: the failure to reform capitalism after the bankers crash, the decade-long stagnation in living standards across the West, the retreat of welfare states and idea of social solidarity, the inability of centre-left parties to tame turbo capitalism (or in many cases even try), and the lack of imagination in the political classes in dealing with these and other problems. All of this and more has led to Trump, Erdogan and Orban – and of course Brexit. Read the rest of this entry »

Who is going to champion Glasgow? Life after the GSA fire and the threat to the CCA

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 12th 2018

Glasgow hasn’t had to look too far to seek its troubles of late. There has been the devastating Glasgow School of Art fire (the second in four years), followed by the seeming abandonment of Sauchiehall Street businesses and residents. And if that weren’t enough in the last week there have been concerns that the acclaimed arts and cultural venue, the Centre for Contemporary Arts (CCA), shut since the GSA fire, faces the prospect of closure.

The CCA has played a vital part in the cultural story of the city. It began life as the Third Eye Centre opening in 1975 where it gave a whole host of emerging and radical artists a platform, providing a hub for debate, exchange and hanging out. This morphed into the CCA in 1992 and subsequently the space was overhauled to create a stunning atrium with a café, along with a cinema space and music venue, with over a dozen businesses and enterprises renting and using space, in a rich eco-system which made it a place to go for interesting conversation, an unusual art exhibition or film, or just food and drink. Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking for Scotland: The Salmond Case, Independence and the Silences of Modern Life

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 5th 2018

The Salmond controversy has garnered huge press coverage. Beyond the actual cases itself, this says a lot about the state of Scotland. I am not making any assumptions about the guilt or innocence of Alex Salmond or the veracity of the accusations. This case is not just about Salmond or the allegations, but casts a wider light on some aspects of Scottish life, with certain parts of society not coming up smelling of roses.

A caveat. ‘This is what we have become’ said Kenny Farquharson. No ‘we’ have not. This is not about the ugliness and hatred in all of us, but in parts of Scotland. All societies have unsavoury opinion and haters: we have to confront ours and not give them the power of assuming they speak for all Scotland.

In this piece I concentrate primarily on the comments and attitudes of Salmond supporters – mostly the private citizens who responded to the crowdfunder, welter of comments on social media, and the odd intervention from public figures – and consider what their views tell us about what they think of the world.

  1. Salmond’s crowdfunder

Salmond’s crowdfunder was a statement of what he could do, and of what he has – status and pulling power. As Dani Garavelli wrote, ‘What was his crowdfunder, if not a display of power and popularity?’ It was a problematic action in relation to the course of justice being allowed to take its course. Glasgow University legal academic James Chalmers observed: ‘his crowdfunder does not state what decision he seeks to challenge in a JR [Judicial Review], nor what remedy he is seeking in that process’. And why does someone like Salmond need to go out with his collecting bucket to the general public? Read the rest of this entry »

Why the Alex Salmond controversy matters beyond politics

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 29th 2018

There has only been one story in the last few days in Scotland; that of Alex Salmond.

The substantive allegations and Alex Salmond’s response and denial of any wrong-doing have been amply catalogued. The whole controversy covers many issues – alleged wrong doing, how to deal with such sensitive subjects, the role of the media and wider politics, and how justice is done and seen to be done, including how we treat those accused as well as their accusers.

Given there has been so much media coverage, instant comment and judgement I want to look at the big picture, and specifically two areas – how people have responded, and what, if any, wider consequences may flow from this.

Take the reactions of Salmond supporters. First it should be acknowledged that the vast majority of pro-independence and SNP opinion has publicly been very respectful and careful in what it has said. Nicola Sturgeon has set an important direction in what is a test of her leadership and clearly a difficult issue for her.

For a small minority of uber-believers Salmond can do no wrong and they will stand with him seemingly unconditionally. The range of responses this has brought has been telling, from social media images of ‘When I was in trouble … Alex stood with me … Until I hear differently, I’m with Alex’ to much more. Read the rest of this entry »

Jeremy Corbyn in Scotland: What he should say about Broken Britain

Gerry Hassan

New Statesman, August 23rd 2018

Jeremy Corbyn is in Scotland. He has problems understanding Scotland and the changing dynamics of the UK. Here is the speech he should give while here.

The backdrop to this speech is that Corbyn and his team have not been seen to understand Scotland or understand its distinct politics. The Scottish party, despite making six gains at last year’s general election (up from one seat in 2015), finished third in the polls, and no sign of recovery under Richard Leonard’s leadership looks on the cards – with the party regularly in third place in the polls behind the SNP and Tories.

Since last year’s election, the Corbyn leadership have begun to recognise that Scotland matters if they are to win a general election. Eighteen of the seats which Labour needs to win to form a majority government – and all of them need to be won from the SNP.

Scottish Labour has not gained from the Corbyn surge. It has had no major inflow of new members as in England and Wales. The people who would have joined a Corbyn led Labour in Scotland had already joined the SNP which after the indyref – expanded fivefold. Labour need to understand and reconnect with the energy and activism of left-wing independence opinion, and if it is to be listened to – develop a different politics on the constitution and future of Scotland and the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

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