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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

A Time for Big Ideas for Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, February 16th 2020

Big ideas are important. Boris Johnson is talking about infrastructure projects, committing to HS2 and spending £106 billion of taxpayers’ monies. He also this week announced a review into the feasibility of a 20-mile long Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge that will cost £20 billion.

Irrespective of the merits of these projects, and the obvious point that the Scottish-Northern Irish bridge has next to no chance of ever being built, they mark a different kind of politics at least rhetorically from that of Boris Johnson’s immediate Tory predecessors.

These announcements raise big questions about the role of government, public spending and what is deliverable, feasible and believable. One strand which many on the left will understandably want to resist is that Johnson’s government is embarking on an era of raising selective public spending, a more interventionist state and greater role for government, amounting to a different kind of Conservatism compared to recent decades.

This brings up challenges for Scotland. What do we want to be defined by? What do we want to collectively organise and mobilise to do? What do we want to do which brings lasting change and directly transforms lives – beyond the constitutional question and independence? Read the rest of this entry »

The End of an Era: The Imperial Era of the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 12th 2020

The SNP were once the bright promising future of Scotland but all such periods of political promise come to an end. It isn’t possible to permanently remain the new kids of the block with the passing of time. The resignation of Derek Mackay as Finance Secretary and his subsequent suspension from the SNP came like a bolt out of the blue – shocking everyone in his party, fellow parliamentarians and political opponents, and the media.

The SNP stands dominant in Scottish politics with 50% support in the latest polls. Independence is on 50% plus in the last three polls thanks to a Brexit bounce while the political opponents of the Nationalists – Tories, Labour and Lib Dems – are not in a strong position north of the border.

However, the SNP’s poll ratings are not quite the whole story. A palpable sense of unease and nervousness has been building in the party for several years – probably since the 2016 Brexit vote, the 2017 attempt by Nicola Sturgeon to progress an indyref, and the 2017 UK election reverse (which the party won but lost 21 out of its 56 Westminster seats). This is about many things – the party’s direction, culture of leadership, lack of internal democracy, and absence of any semblance of a strategy by senior figures on independence and indyref2. Read the rest of this entry »

What holds Scotland back? Our relationship with England and ourselves

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, February 9th 2020

Scotland has travelled far in recent decades. The country is more autonomous, confident, self-governing and secure in having multiple identities. This is what we often tell ourselves and there is truth in it. Yet it is also true that after 20 years of the Scottish Parliament we still have many areas in which to progress, and numerous barriers that hold us back and limit the lives of too many.

Much of what restricts us can be directly linked to structural issues and hard power – economic, social, and political. But there are also cultural and psychological dimensions – and all of these can be seen in our relationship with England and its impact on Scotland, and the wider state of our society.

Take the relationship with England. Scotland is 8.4% of the UK population, England 84%. We are one-third the land mass and even more in maritime waters. The population balance means that political power in UK elections does not often sit here but in England. Read the rest of this entry »

Why the power of loss and not imagining the future aids populists and demagogues

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 5th 2020

The UK – and with it Scotland – have left the European Union after 47 years. In human terms, this is a substantial length of time – the equivalent of a lifelong adult marriage or relationship, but in that comparison the British political classes and large swathe of public opinion never fully committed themselves to the European project, making the eventual divorce unsurprising.

This is a watershed moment for all of us – the 31st of January 2020 being the equivalent in importance of 1 January 1973 when the UK joined the EEC along with the Republic of Ireland and Denmark. Taking into consideration the complications of the Brexit divorce – the pro-EU majorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland – and the fact that the UK is not realistically going to be rejoining the EU in the near-future, we are living and making history of a profound, lasting kind.

For many leavers this is a time for celebration, for affirming the triumph of democracy, and the power of the people in asserting the importance of an independent, self-governing UK. For lots of remainers there is exactly the opposite array of emotions – of feeling cheated and betrayed; sensing that the UK has become a mean spirited, bitter and divided country, and that they have lost something precious and important in being part of a set of independent nation states uniquely co-operating together. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland after Brexit: What needs to happen to win independence?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, February 2nd 2020

Leadership isn’t easy. It can be lonely and difficult. But it is not without rewards when you get it right. Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday: ‘leadership is not about giving people easy answers … It is about being honest with people.’

In the aftermath of Sturgeon’s announcement hours before Scotland was dragged out of the EU against our democratic wishes – many felt a plethora of different emotions about Scotland’s future, independence, and the role of the Scottish Government and SNP.

Some felt bitterly let down. They felt the road to 2020 was entirely of the First Minister’s making and that she has cumulatively boxed herself in. Others note that Sturgeon is doing what she has been doing since 2014 and even more so since the 2016 Brexit vote – playing a long-term game of cautious, gradual steps.

The bigger picture is the assault on Scottish democracy that Brexit is. This is the poll tax with bells on. Scotland never forgot the Tories for that episode and being branded ‘guinea pigs’. Today people will never forget what the Tories have done and the Brexit they have imposed – along with the refusal of Scottish Labour and Lib Dem politicians to act against this. 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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