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Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

Time to close the last closed shop: Britain and Scotland’s private schools

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, 13 February 2019

Britain’s elites have never been more self-serving, self-sustaining and only interested in looking after themselves – aided by private education.

All of a sudden the subject of private schools is back on the public agenda, aided by a decade of austerity, stalled living standards and the evaporation of social mobility. This has brought home to many who would not have previously thought of it the role of private education in looking after a very select and privileged few.

Britain’s elites according to research by the Sutton Trust have 74% of judges, 71% of barristers and 71% of senior military privately educated – with 32% of MPs (figures for 2016). This has spread into the worlds of culture, entertainment and sport with 60% of British winners of Oscars and 42% of BAFTA winners privately educated along with 41% of UK medalists in the 2012 London Olympics. Read the rest of this entry »

The next Battle of Britain is going to about England’s future

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 6th 2019

Brexit certainly seems increasingly to be about England – or a certain version of England and a rather specific version of the past.

Take last week for example. The previous Tuesday was another landmark day for Brexit. There were numerous big parliamentary votes and the House of Commons made clear again that it was unhappy with Theresa May’s deal with the EU.

BBC News knew this was a big moment and the next day ended their flagship ‘Six O’Clock News’ announcing: ‘Theresa May says she intends to go back to Brussels to renegotiate her Brexit deal but EU leaders say the deal is done and they will not reopen talks.’

Dramatic stuff. But what footage did the BBC have as a backdrop to showcase a British Conservative Prime Minister with their back to the wall standing up to Europe? They inexplicably choose footage of World War Two Spitfires and the Battle of Britain in the summer of 1940. The reason for this, the Beeb later revealed, was ‘a production mistake’ of loading a previously shown film again. That seemed a little disingenuous to say the least! Read the rest of this entry »

Hugh McIlvanney: A Moral Compass and the Power of Words

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 30th 2019

The tributes paid to Hugh McIlvanney spoke volumes for the influence of the man, his writing and for his humanity. They were laced with recollections and memorable stories of late nights, pressurised deadlines, and long conversations – often involving drink. They came from far and wide across the spectrum including Donald Trelford, former editor of ‘The Observer’; Alex Ferguson, ex-manager of Aberdeen FC and Manchester United FC; Graham Spiers of The Times; Liam McIlvanney remembering his uncle; stars such as George Foreman and Gary Lineker – and even the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

McIlvanney wrote on sport for over fifty years, starting at the Kilmarnock Standard in the 1950s, having a spell at The Scotsman before moving to The Observer in 1962 where he spent thirty one years, before moving to the Sunday Times where he remained until his retirement in 2016. In that time he covered some of the most memorable football and sporting moments from Celtic winning the European Cup to the Ali v Foreman ‘rumble in the jumble’. But he also covered more – addressing, for example, when sport and politics mixed at the Mexico Olympics in 1968 and Munich games in 1972 when in both cases disaster and death struck.

In amidst the powerful testimony of McIlvanney’s prose and his care for detail, accuracy and the semi-colon was a discernable lament for the passing of a now lost world. This centred on numerous areas: a golden age of journalism and long form essays, a time when writers could get access to some of the greats and then get unguarded copy free from the constraints of PR advisers, and an age of working class self-education and advancement without forgetting about who you were and what was important. Read the rest of this entry »

Independence is about more than an indyref. It is about changing minds and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, January 25th 2019

Independence has to be about more than tactics and processes – which has dominated too many conversations since 2014.

Independence is about more than an indyref – and in particular, timing, the question asked and how it comes about. This is politics as process and taking the substance for granted. And it is a trap too many independence supporters have fallen into post-2014.

The last four plus years have been a strange time in Scottish politics. The democratic spirit of the indyref has been allowed to wither and fade – as in part it must naturally. But it is a serious failure that subsequently no new forms of engagement have been created by the Scottish Government or other public bodies. Instead, for ‘official’ Scotland it has been back to business as usual, when the country could have risen to something better.

The SNP have shown little imagination post-2014 or understanding of the Scotland that emerged after the indyref. Instead, we have been offered a leadership which does little in the way of actual positive leadership: honesty about difficult issues, recognising hard choices, and challenging people to come out of their comfort zones. Rather we have been offered safety-first caution, command and control and silence on the big issues. Read the rest of this entry »

We Scots have to start listening to each other

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 23rd 2019

Brexit seems to have no end, consuming nearly all political energy and devouring those who come into contact with it. Or so it seems for now.

The Economist recently made the point in its ‘Bagehot’ column that one of the seldom understood groups in British politics were the long haulers. These were people who once occupied the margins of political life, and have now in the case of Brexiteers and Corbynistas, come centrestage and turned politics upside down.

These two groups involved people who refused to compromise and were once dismissed as dogmatists and cranks, but by standing firm have forced the mainstream to bend to their will. The Brexiteers were aided by successive Tory leaderships dismissing or appeasing them, culminating in David Cameron announcing an in-out referendum. And in the Corbynista case by the discrediting of the Blair-Brown project from the Iraq war onwards.

In their Westminster focus The Economist forgot one other group of long haulers who have shaken the foundations of politics: Scottish independence supporters. They, similarly, came in from the cold, where for decades they were caricatured as oddballs who did not understand the modern world. Now independence has remade Scottish and British politics and the union will never be the same again. 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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