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Posts Tagged ‘Bella Caledonia’

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 »

Living in the Shadow of Empire State Britain and the Problem of Cultural Dementia

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, April 19th 2018

The UK has been an uncomfortable place in the last few days. There has been the controversy over the Windrush deportations, Tory Cabinet minister Esther McVey defending the rape clause at the Scottish Parliament as ‘non-invasive’, and the resuscitation of Enoch Powell’s ‘rivers of blood’ 1968 speech from beyond the grave. On top of this there has been the Trump-led bombing of Syria, backed by UK and French forces, without parliamentary vote or international approval.

We have to understand the deeper context of the state we are in. The UK has not and never has been a democratic state or polity. Instead the overhang and past influence of feudalism and absolutism define much of public life, institutions and attitudes to this day. Take just one obvious example. We talk about electing the UK Parliament, but we elect one part of it (the Commons), and don’t the other (the Lords), leaving it completely unelected (and this after a hundred year long campaign to abolish or overhaul it).

From Warfare to Welfare and Back

The UK has for all of its existence been first and foremost a warfare state: one whose purpose has been historically to wage war, conquer territories, dominate the high seas and maintain its Empire. If some people think this is something deep and buried in the past, just consider that since 1945 Britain’s armed forces have been involved in military action in every single year apart from one – 1968. That year represents the gap between the retreat of Empire and Aden and the beginning of British troops on the streets of Northern Ireland. Read the rest of this entry »

Culture in Scotland in the midst of storms: A Call for Dangerous Cultures

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 16th 2018

Culture in Scotland is in difficult times: public spending cuts, the lost decade of stagnant living standards for the vast majority of people, limits to the Scottish Government’s largesse and devolution powers, controversy over Creative Scotland’s decision making and funding priorities resulting in the debate over the future of the Scottish Youth Theatre – and much more (with some questioning the continued existence of Creative Scotland).

If you think these are dangerous waters you ain’t seen nothing yet. While some yearn for the headwinds of populism, revolt and voter dissatisfaction to blow themselves out and ‘normal’ politics to resume, others recognise that what was normal was part of the problem and one of the reasons we got into the current mess. Restoration politics and culture which is what some dream of isn’t aiming very high.

Instead, we inhabit an age of broken mainstream politics, a discredited economic model, big questions about accountability, ethics and responsibility in both public life and in what is called private life, but is increasingly a contested arena. That’s without mentioning Brexit, Trump, the ineptitudes of the Theresa May UK Government, and that nearly everywhere in the developed world those notionally in control have lost their confidence, while continuing to pretend otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Wake Up and Ask Some Difficult Questions abut the SNP and Independence

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, January 23rd 2018

‘What Do You Do When A Society Lies to Itself?’ So said writer Umair Haque this week in the context of the constitutional standoff in Trump’s America. But it is true of most nations most of the time; certainly it is true of today’s UK – and also of modern Scotland.

Scottish politics are currently in what can only be described as a phoney war – a becalmed period of inertia and inactivity in-between the storms that buffet politics. Everyone is waiting to see how Brexit pans out. This is central to how the SNP and Scottish Government see things. They are sitting, anticipating the debris that flows from Brexit and the implications for independence. Unfortunately, this is a politics of passivity, and even of acceptance, that others (the UK Government, EU negotiators) will determine the political environment.

Added to this, since the indyref, a problematic mix of complacency, and even self-deception, has befallen too many independence supporters. For one, the SNP leadership has failed to grasp the political momentum post-2014. Nicola Sturgeon has not made one strategic gambit since the indyref and her election as SNP leader and First Minister – beyond the March 2017 attempt to advance a second indy referendum, in which she was out-manoeuvred by Theresa May and the UK Government. Read the rest of this entry »

We have reached a watershed for UK politics: Time for independence to catch the wave of change

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 20th 2017

These are bewildering and often disorientating times to live in. In recent weeks and months it has felt at times difficult to keep up with the speed of events – as history has been seemingly made and remade every few days.

Such periods call for being honest, respectful in debate, and reflection and self-awareness in everything any of us say or do in public. Look around at the events in the UK and world and they rightly should imbue any of us with a humbleness and wariness of easy remedies.

That said the Scottish election results mark some kind of watershed. Take a couple of perspectives from the ‘Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas’ Scotland after the election event in Glasgow on Sunday. Peter Geoghegan said the election was ‘the end of the 2014 indyref road’. John Curtice that ‘Brexit has been as disruptive for the Nationalists – as for every other party.’ Angela Haggerty that independence was facing its ‘first big test’ since 2014.

Curtice pointed out that the SNP’s 37% was the tipping point of support for the party and FPTP working in its favour (the SNP won 35 out of 59 seats: 59%). Its support is relatively flatly distributed across the country compared to its opponents, and this produces according to Curtice for the SNP ‘feast or famine’. Any further fall of even a few percent and the electoral system will begin to work against the SNP – the way it currently does for Tories, Labour and Lib Dems – and did when the SNP broke through at Westminster in October 1974: their previous peak until 2015 and 2017. 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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