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Posts Tagged ‘Scotland’s Referendum’

Welcome to the Future: The Age of Uncertainty

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, February 28th 2016

Politics and public life are meant to follow neat, tidy, predictable patterns.

Experts and forecasters are supposed to be able to give informed analysis on future change. This doesn’t always work out. Even experts have a continuity bias, while sudden events or factors can emerge, seemingly from nowhere that no one foresaw.

We are living in a time where the art of prediction is becoming more difficult. Think of the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, the insurgency of Bernie Sanders in the US Democrat race, or the emergence of Donald Trump as frontrunner in the Republican contest. Before that there was the indyref which was meant to, first not happen, and then be a walkover for the union. Now this pattern is repeating itself with the EU referendum, which the establishment is telling everyone will be a foregone conclusion.

What is going on? How many people said Corbyn couldn’t be elected Labour leader? Myself included. It is rumoured that Corbyn himself had similar views, and then came to the shocking realisation that he was going to win. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland and Britain Have Changed: The ‘Big Bang’ of the Indy Ref and After

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, September 13th 2015

One year ago Scotland went to the polls.

An amazing 85% of us voted: 45% for independence and 55% against – both expressions of Scottish self-government and a desire for a different Scotland.

Scotland did not vote for independence, but nor did it settle for the status quo of the existing union. Instead, it voted to continue in a kind of interregnum – a transition from something familiar to something still hazy with a destination as yet unknown.

This is a time of great upheaval and unpredictability here, in the UK and globally. The SNP May landslide, the Corbyn surge, the Greek crisis, the humanitarian disaster of Europe, and Chinese economic shudders. Yet, paradoxically Scotland one year on seems to be sitting waiting for the next big thing to turn up. Read the rest of this entry »

What happens to the Spirit of 2014?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, December 21st 2014

It has been an action packed 2014.

Scotland’s year has witnessed drama, theatre and spectacle: the Commonwealth Games, First World War anniversaries, the Ryder Cup, and of course, the Big Day in September – the independence referendum.

Scotland voted to stay in the union for now, but changed in the process, became more self-confident and more sure in its capacity to self-govern itself. The UK political classes seemed less sure-footed by the day.

The spirit of 2014 witnessed the greatest democratic expression of Scots ever seen in history. This was bigger, more important and vibrant than anything previously seen in our politics and society.

High politics tried to understand this. There was the last minute panic of ‘the Vow’ which led to the Smith Commission: decent greater devolution, but dull stuff which isn’t about democracy. Then there was Cameron playing with combustible materials: raising the spectre of English Votes for English Laws and reducing Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish MPs to second class representatives. Read the rest of this entry »

Message to the Messengers Part Two: Where next after the indy referendum?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Left Project, December 12th 2014

The winds of change are without doubt blowing through Scotland.

There is the decline of traditional power and institutions, the hollowing out and, in places, implosion of some of the key anchor points of public life and a fundamental shift in authority in many areas.

This is Scotland’s ‘long revolution’ – which the indyref was a product of and which then was a catalyst of further change. It is partly understandable that in the immediate aftermath of the referendum, expectations have risen, people have thought fundamental change could happen in the period immediately following the vote, and timescales once thought long have been dramatically shortened by some on the independence side.

Popular expectations, pressure and demand for change are a positive, not a negative. Yet, there is the potential pitfall of playing into a left-nat instant gratification culture which poses that all that is needed for change is wish fulfillment, collective will and correct leadership, and hey presto Scotland will be free!  This is a dangerous cocktail because when change doesn’t happen quickly, many of Scotland’s newly politicised activists may turn away in disappointment.

The times they are a-changing, but they are still messy, complicated and full of contradictions. For a start, the power of establishment Scotland is still, for all its uncomfortableness and nervous disposition in the indyref, well-entrenched and deeply dug in across society. If brought under scrutiny and challenge, from land reform to a genuine politics of redistribution, they will fight bitterly and with powerful resources for their narrow vested interests. Read the rest of this entry »

Message to the Messengers: What do we do after Yes?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Left Project, December 5th 2014

It is a frenetic, dynamic time to be living in Scotland – politically, culturally and in many other aspects of public life.

Nearly three months since the momentous indyref Scotland is still gripped by a sense of movement, possibilities and new openings – up to and beyond the 2015 and 2016 elections.

Yet at the same time in parts of the independence movement there are unrealistic expectations of political change, of belief that the union is finished, and that Scotland can embark on its destiny in the next couple of years.

Any radical politics has to have a sense of what is possible, to push it as far as it can, to understand timescales and how these dovetail with strategy. And critically it has to understand the political culture beyond its own boundaries – in the Scotland which voted No.

The independence referendum was a historic moment, an epic time in Scotland’s political evolution, and an awakening of the democratic impulse. Yet, it produced a comfortable victory for No and a defeat for Yes. For all the commentary that Yes won the campaign and that the idea of independence has been normalised, defeat has an upside: an opportunity and release which shouldn’t just be squandered. 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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