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Posts Tagged ‘Local Government’

2018 will be the Year of Dundee but whose Dundee will it be?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 20th 2018

2018 will be the Year of Dundee. There is excitement and expectation in the city. After years in the doldrums, Dundee has now been punching above its weight for over a decade.

It is not just the anticipation of the V&A’s public opening on September 15th. The city has been picking up international attention and plaudits as variously ‘Scotland’s coolest city’ (Wall Street Journal), the ‘coolest in Scotland’ and undergoing a ‘renaissance’ (Condé Nast Traveller), ‘Britain’s coolest city’ (GQ magazine), and one of the top ten global destinations for 2018 (Wall Street Journal).

There is a good story here and we should celebrate it. Dundee has changed, lots of positive things have been happening, and more is on the way. Yet, it is also true that Dundee has historically been neglected by large parts of Scotland, from being overlooked to being patronised. How often have I heard the line ‘I have never been to Dundee I have just passed through it without stopping’, as a friendly Aberdonian recently said at a party in Edinburgh. Dundee planners have even made this easier as the Kingsway provides an easy by-pass cutting through the city.

That condescension is felt by Dundonians. My auntie Betty, in her 80s, and an astute observer of all things related to the city commented last weekend that ‘Dundee has always been a Cinderella city. Edinburgh is the capital, Glasgow is always buzzing with things going on, and Aberdeen had the oil.’ Is it possible that Scotland’s Central Belt tunnel vision, which is really a Glasgow-Edinburgh focus, will give Dundee a chance to shine and be noticed? Read the rest of this entry »

Glasgow’s Success is Key to Scotland’s Success

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, May 29th 2016

Glasgow is Scotland’s biggest city. It may only contain 606,340 people in its council boundaries, but the Greater Glasgow conurbation is double that – at 1.2 million.

Glasgow is one of the drivers of the Scottish economy and society: a place of great wealth, enterprise, jobs and culture. But it is also characterised by staggering degrees and levels of poverty, inequality and disadvantage. This isn’t anything remotely new and has been the case since the city experienced rapid industrialisation from the early 1800s, but it limits the city and the potential of its inhabitants.

Take the debate on public health – centred around what has become known as ‘the Glasgow effect’. This shows that, allowing for poverty and material circumstances, the city’s health record is much worse than elsewhere in Scotland – and to comparable cities like Liverpool and Manchester. Read the rest of this entry »

Dundee: City of Discovery and the West Dunbartonshire Question

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 13th 2016

Dundee, Scotland’s fourth city is on the move. It is often forgotten about or even patronised by those in the Central Belt – ‘it is a place I have only passed through’ is a regular refrain I have heard over the years – and is still seen by many, as my astute Dundonian Auntie Betty observes, as a ‘Cinderella city’.

In reality contemporary Dundee is a hive of energy, optimism and purpose. The V&A is coming, Malmaison is already making a mark, and there is a welter of activity and investment in the Waterfront beside the Tay Road Bridge.

While Dundee looks to the future, it also showcases its past – with the McManus Galleries refurbished, and Dundee’s Jute Museum (Verdant Works) portraying the complex contribution that this product has made to the wealth, commerce and working class history of the city. Could a genuine ‘Dundee: City of Discovery’ replace its reputation as Scotland’s most forgotten and neglected city? Read the rest of this entry »

Who will make the big, bold decisions if Nicola won’t?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, March 6th 2016

These are supposedly exciting times in the broad sweep of Scottish history. There’s the epic spectacle of the referendum; a union questioned and nearly broken; and an upsurge of political engagement, activism and hopes.

Yet, sometimes the predominant story of any period belies much of what it is going on. Take the art of government and making decisions as an example.

How local government is paid for might sound arcane and boring, but it is one that politicians have long been wary of tinkering with. The Scottish rates revaluation of the 1980s brought in the poll tax, and the tax’s introduction in England helped seal the fate of Margaret Thatcher’s Premiership.

No one loves the council tax. It was introduced in 1993 to replace the controversial poll tax – being a return to a property-based tax, without calling it domestic rates. It is supposedly easy to understand, easy to collect, and more difficult to avoid than most of the alternatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland’s Democratic Revolution is Long Overdue

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, September 15th 2012

Scottish devolution was always going to produce centralisation, such as the Procurement Reform Bill along with single police and fire forces, and at the same time the rhetoric of change seen in the current Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.

It is over a year since the publication of the Christie Commission and as financial circumstances tighten, never has the time been more ripe for radical reform.

One approach is already on offer: the English marketisation route beloved by Andrew Lansley when he was at health; an alternative is the Scottish attitude of emphasising professional interests, integrated services and equity.

Yet while Scots professionals and politicians universally baulk at the idea of free schools, academies and foundation hospitals, they have to acknowledge that they tap into a wider public agenda than just that of marketisation and outsourcing. 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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