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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

How can we change the declining fortunes of Scottish football?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 10th 2019

Scottish football last week witnessed the regular circus of an Old Firm match. It was the usual pantomime of bad feeling and nastiness, with two Rangers players sent off and Celtic captain Scott Brown assaulted. Both clubs, Rangers manager Steven Gerrard and Brown were charged by the football authorities, while three football supporters were stabbed with one seriously injured – which was downplayed by most fans and media.

This unedifying drama and reflection of the worst of Scotland regularly comes around: with the two clubs sometimes meeting up to six times a season, all adding to the mutual hatred, obsession and co-dependency (which gives sustenance to the term Old Firm). Unacceptable behaviour doesn’t stop there with the recent Hearts v Hibs Edinburgh derby marred by flares thrown on to the pitch and racist abuse.

The Old Firm match came for those charged with running the game as a welcome distraction from its lamentable state, and the humiliation of the Scottish men’s international team who had crashed 3-0 to Kazakhstan, and then struggled to beat San Marino, rated the worst team in the world, 2-0. Read the rest of this entry »

History cannot be written in stone: Why are public statues important?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 2nd 2019

In recent years, from US campuses to towns to the UK, public statues have increasingly become a subject of heated debate and controversy. From Charlottesville in the US where one protestor was killed, to Cecil Rhodes in Oxford, and to what kind of plaque Henry Dundas has in Edinburgh, this is a live issue.

These debates are about much more than the statues in question. They touch upon the legacy of Empire in Britain, racism, slavery and xenophobia and, in other societies across the world, memories of dictatorship. They bring up issues not only about how we remember and understand the past, but how we see ourselves today, and even whom we regard as citizen in our society.

Glasgow once had the moniker ‘the second city of Empire’ marking that its wealth, commerce and importance were shaped by the height of Britain’s dominance and military power. It is this part of the city’s history which is over-represented in public statues that give pride of place to a host of great men ranging from industrialists, scientists, and politicians, while missing out women and people from black and ethnic minorities. Read the rest of this entry »

Standing Up to Child Sex Abuse: The Story of David Steel and Cyril Smith

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 27th 2019

The mantra of the current age is that we take child sex abuse seriously. We listen to victims, we respect them, and we act on allegations, knowing how difficult and painful it is for people to come forward.

This is a comforting account on an important and sensitive issue. But in the light of recent events we have to ask whether we really take child sex abuse that seriously? Have we really changed that much as a society from that of the past? Are we still looking for excuses to not confront abuse and abusers? And do we really listen to, and respect, victims and their testimony?

Two examples in the last couple of weeks suggest we have not changed as much as we claim – here in the UK and across the West. Both throw unedifying light on our attitudes and that of many prominent people in public life. Firstly is the case of how former Liberal leader David Steel dealt with historic allegations of child sex abuse made against then Liberal MP Cyril Smith. And then there are the continued allegations against pop star and mega celebrity, Michael Jackson, in light of the documentary ‘Leaving Neverland’.

Two weeks ago at the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse, headed up by Professor Alexis Jay, Steel was called to give evidence about Cyril Smith. A short reminder of the backstory is that Smith was Liberal MP from Rochdale from 1972-92, first winning the seat in a high profile by-election from Labour. He was a larger than life character, having been Liberal, then Labour, then Liberal again, and a local councillor and Mayor of the town. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland’s Culture of Colluding with Violence

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 20th 2019

Scotland was once infamous for its reputation and reality as a violent place. This was associated with all sorts of potent, demeaning caricatures of the angry, aggressive Scot, but underlying these images Scotland did have a problem.

We had a culture of all too pervasive violence, a high murder rate with Glasgow earning the moniker ‘murder capital of Europe’, a problem with knife crime, and a wider attitude that it was too often permissible to solve differences by violence, including widespread violence against children.

Much has changed and we have come far. But while we have had significant successes in tackling knife crime, in reducing our murder rate, and generally in addressing violence in Glasgow we still have in too many places an attitude that excuses and accepts violence in our society. This can be seen for example in the ongoing debate about smacking children.

A parliamentary bill before Holyrood, being championed by Green MSP John Finnie and backed by the government, aims to ban the smacking of children. This has started a major national debate – some of it informed, insightful and shaped by a concern for what we do to best bring up our children, to build relationships of support and compassion, and to put in places resources to aid parents, families and the wider community to aid this. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland’s Independent Story isn’t over:

A Review of Yes/No: Inside the Indyref

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 19th 2019

As British politics enters a mixture of meltdown and an endgame, convulsed by Brexit, everywhere in political discourse there is an obsession with the past. From the rise of Churchill to unquestioned national hero, to the ultra-Brexiteers talking of the UK reduced to a ‘vassal state’ of the EU; and now, Speaker John Bercow announcing there cannot be a rerun of parliamentary votes due to a 1604 English convention, while being compared to Speaker William Lenthall who presided over the long Parliament and English civil war.

Such a fraught period seems the ideal moment to revisit that other time of near-UK meltdown, namely our indyref – the subject of a three-part documentary on the new BBC Scotland channel, ‘Yes/No: Inside the Indyref’, the last episode of which airs tonight. It is a welcome, long overdue production, coming four and a half years after that historic September 2014 vote, underlying the problems the Beeb has had in Scotland and the UK in coming to terms with such high octane existential politics.

The three programmes covered the political environment in light of the SNP winning a parliamentary majority in 2011 and the agreement of the Scottish and UK Governments on an indyref; from the announcement of the date to the last weeks of the campaign; and the hectic final period of Yes going into the lead and the resulting panic of No and the British political establishment. 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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