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Posts Tagged ‘Nicola Sturgeon’

Conventional wisdom is no guide to the future in an age of turmoil and surprise

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 13th 2019

UK general elections are never about one single subject even when politicians try to define them as such. Ted Heath’s ‘Who governs Britain?’ election of February 1974 became about the state of the country, and Winston Churchill’s belief after the war in Europe ended in 1945 that he would be elected by a grateful electorate turned out to be illusive as voters instead looked to the future.

Similarly this election will not be about just one issue – Brexit. In Scotland there are three big competing issues; and of course much more besides. There is Brexit, who speaks for anti-Tory Scotland, and the independence question.

No one party speaks for majority Scotland across all three. The SNP are the leading party in the first two – positioning themselves as the biggest force in significant sized majorities. But they do not, as of yet, speak for a majority of Scotland on the third issue – independence – which matters most to them.

It is increasingly evident that the ghosts of past elections and limits of what passes for conventional wisdom run through how this election is seen. Thus, 2019 is continually interpreted through the experience of 2017 and the memory of the Corbyn surge – both by Labour Corbyn supporters and many media watchers. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland needs fundamental change. A nationalist project is not enough

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 16th 2019

Five years after the indyref and three years after the Brexit vote Scottish politics feels like it is in a holding pattern, full of pent up pressures, but stuck in a vortex of powerful forces beyond its control.

The SNP, who just met at their annual conference in Aberdeen, are by far the leading party. Yet their dominance can be overstated, it being aided by the fragmentation of multi-party politics, divided opposition and the negatives of Labour and Tories. The most recent Panelbase poll put the SNP on Westminster voting intentions on 39%, up 2.1% on 2017, with the Tories on 21% (-7.6%), Labour 20% (-7.1%) and Lib Dems 13% (+6.2%); on a national swing this would give the SNP 48 seats (+13), Tories 5 (-8), Lib Dems 5 (+1) and Labour one (-6).

Steve Richards’ recent book ‘The Prime Ministers: Reflections on Leadership from Wilson to May’ cites Tony Benn’s idea of politicians who change the political weather as ‘teachers’. Sad to say none of the current politicians in this land would qualify as such leaders. Who were the last teachers in our politics? Alex Salmond and Gordon Brown to an extent; Tommy Sheridan on the margins; maybe Jim Sillars and Margo MacDonald would qualify too. For a nation that prides itself on its idealism we have been short of politicians who have successfully transformed attitudes. Read the rest of this entry »

Politics and People Power is changing Scotland and beyond

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 9th 2019

Demos and marches are part of the ritual of politics – from today’s pro- and anti-Brexit gatherings, to the direct action and interventions of Extinction Rebellion, and the spate of pro-Scottish independence rallies criss-crossing the nation.

They are often dismissed by those in power and the mainstream media as pointless and having little to no effect. But that is too easy, glib and cynical. Instead, while many marches have a limited impact, only preaching to the converted and not reaching out to persuade beyond the base, others represent something significant and have a lasting influence – whether capturing a moment, defining a movement, or bringing into sharp focus an argument, cause or defining set of principles.

Historically this is obvious. The huge Chartist rallies for democracy in the 19th century; the Suffragette protests of the early 20th century; the march from Selma to Montgomery in 1965 led by Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement; the huge anti-Vietnam war protests in the US in 1969 which shook the Nixon administration; and the anti-Communist rallies which spread across Eastern Europe in late 1989 and which brought down the rotten Stalinist dictatorships one after the other. All these and more are examples of people power bringing about change – often literally in the sense of regime change, or often in terms of existing regimes changing their behaviour. Read the rest of this entry »

Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘obsession’ with staying in office and life after Sturgeon

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 28th 2019

In the past week Nicola Sturgeon made a couple of important statements about politics and power in Scotland. Speaking with the political comedian Matt Forde at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Sturgeon was revealing in a way she seldom is, and not perhaps in the way she intended to be.

Firstly, Sturgeon said she was ‘obsessed’ with keeping the SNP in office and not ending up in an ‘existential crisis’ like Scottish Labour. Secondly, she said that the decline of Labour in Scotland and seeing them go from being ‘seemingly impregnable’ to, at best Scotland’s third political force, and in humiliating fifth place in the recent European elections with 9% of the vote, profoundly influenced how she saw politics and acted as a leader.

Let’s take Sturgeon’s self-stated modus operandi of politics first: that she is ‘obsessed’ above all else with retaining power. This is a charge often made about her and the SNP by critics, and in particular pro-independence critics inside and outside the party. It draws from the evidence of twelve years of the SNP in office and five years of Sturgeon leadership. The latter has been defined by a lack of any clear direction or strategy beyond managing events, expectations, the party and independence supporters. Read the rest of this entry »

What should we talk about to make Scotland a place we are proud to call home?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 7th 2019

There is only one subject on the lips of many this week: independence and Michael Ashcroft’s 52:48 poll. This is the Scotland of 2019 – twenty years of the Scottish Parliament, five years since the indyref, nine years of Tory-led government, and with less than 90 days to the prospect of a ‘No Deal Brexit’.

We have also had twelve years of SNP Government. Once upon a time its admirers talked of its competence and sure touch, but they do less now. The passing of time and pressures of office have had a cost, and even though the SNP is still by far the most popular party in the country, the sense of political attrition and wear and tear on the administration is palpable.

There are obvious shortcomings in the SNP record and in their style of government, talk of widespread disquiet within and across the party, concerns about the style of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership, and despite the poll above, huge worries about the absence of any strategy in relation to independence. Most of these sentiments are expressed quietly and in private, but with a sense of vacuum and drift, other issues become more divisive, such as the trans issue and Gender Recognition Act, which has seen bitter exchanges between senior figures in the party. 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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