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Posts Tagged ‘Devolution’

The coming of age of the Scottish Parliament … but has power shifted to the people?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 8th 2019

Twenty years ago last Monday Scotland went to the polls in the first democratic elections to the Scottish Parliament. This coming Sunday marks the anniversary of the first session of that Parliament which Winnie Ewing famously opened with the words: ‘The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25th 1707, is hereby reconvened.’

The new Parliament was elected with much goodwill, hope and energy, following the decisive 1997 devolution referendum. Polls showed that large majorities expected the Parliament to bring positive change on the economy, NHS, education, law and order and more, and at the same time to become the focal point of political life and decisions.

Twenty years is an appropriate point to assess the Parliament, its role and impact, and the politics and activities around it, and to ask whether it has lived up to its initial hopes, what it has achieved, and where all this might be heading? Read the rest of this entry »

Where is Radical Scotland and does it really exist?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 12th 2018

As the United Kingdom seemingly collapses and its political class shows unprecedented incompetence, where stands Scotland? Where is that much talked about sentiment that we are radical, different, and more left-wing than the rest of the UK?

For some all that matters in the above is difference and the elixir of sovereignty; ‘Take Back Control’ and don’t worry about detail and all the other stuff until we are on the other side of independence. This is rather reminiscent of the version of Brexit as presented by Leave in the 2016 referendum – which did not present any practical offer and just invited people to luxuriate in the warm sunny uplands of the freedom of Brexit Britain. That has not exactly worked to plan as this vague fantasy has hit the cold winds of reality: a warning for any future politics planning similar exercises here or anywhere.

Radical Scotland and its claims centre on a series of different Scottish political choices – that we do universalism more, that we have more humanity and compassion on welfare, and that we have a more progressive set of values as a political community. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Time for Dangerous Talk: Jaytalking Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 15th 2016

These are strange times. We are told everyday in every way by numerous experts and talking heads that this is an age of unprecedented change, uncertainty and flux. That nothing can be taken for granted.

Yet this is also an age of great conformity and conservatism; not only in mainstream politics but in large acres of what passes for popular culture – from music to novels, theatre, comedy, TV and visual arts.

Scotland fits into this pattern rather well. It has shaken the UK to near breaking point and tells itself continually it is social democratic and egalitarian, while being rather conservative in how it goes about this as well as many other things.

Our country is littered with examples of our collective conformity and lack of interest in substantive change – let alone any real radicalism. And what is telling is our lack of interest or curiosity in these discrepancies – lest they disrupt our telling ourselves how unique we are.

If Scotland were this place of radicalism wouldn’t there be a land filled with lots of examples of radicalism? Of pioneering legislation, examples of social change, and people and communities empowered? Would there not have been a shake up of one of the ultimate closed shops: the Scottish legal establishment? Or the education community? Or even senior health consultants? Public sector reform is a phrase left at the border. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland and the Politics of Change after Social Democracy

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 9th 2011

Scotland likes to see itself as a radical nation. An egalitarian country. A country of socialism and more latterly social democratic and progressive values. A nation which never voted for the Tories in large numbers in recent decades, didn’t like Mrs. Thatcher and didn’t buy into Thatcherism. A political community which has stood for timeless Scottish values of caring for the vulnerable, compassion and not buying into the certainties of the last few decades which have obsessed Westminster and Washington.

It is a powerful story and despite all the failings and shortcomings in contemporary Scotland – it is still one which a large part, maybe most of our political class, media and public discourse still buys into. Scotland has stood defiantly against the charms and bluster of Thatcherism and Blairite New Labour, and was shocked by the sad fag end of Gordon Brown’s premiership: not quite believing in him by the time he got the top job, but not quite being prepared to give up on him entirely either.

We need to ask if Scotland has told itself that it is this centre-left nation, anti-Tory, anti-New Labour – why has our politics not advanced this agenda in such a favourable climate? We have a Parliament with a host of political parties which profess to be social democratic, and a decade of significant public spending increases. This has been ideal conditions to test the strength of the thesis that Scotland is this proud, rich centre-left country. Read the rest of this entry »

After Devolution: How Do We Change Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 8th 2011

The last decade of Scotland has shown the limits of devolution and the power of the forces of caution and conservatism – despite our belief that we are radicals, rebels and challengers of orthodoxy.

There were several accounts of devolution, but the dominant, prevailing one was not about transforming Scottish society or a supposed ‘new politics’. Instead, it was about legitimising the existing vested interests and forces of institutional Scotland.

There have been many positives in the last decade: the effortless establishment of the Parliament, its widespread acceptance, and many changes in society which make us a more liberal, tolerant nation. 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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