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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish civil society’

Games with Shadows: Living in Thatcher’s Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, April 10th 2013

We live in Thatcher’s Britain, yet that statement is obvious, contentious and deeply divisive. And this is all the more true of Thatcher north of the border.

Thatcher is simultaneously both history and present day. You can hear this in the differing accounts on TV and radio; with conservative figures claiming she remade the modern world from knocking down the Berlin Wall and freeing Eastern Europe, to preventing a future ‘socialist Britain’; while elements of the left wail in pain and agony at how events have turned out and their inability to come to terms with the country and politics she created.

We live in an age as much shaped by Thatcher as the previous political era: the so-called ‘post-war consensus’, a phrase seldom used in that era, and only invoked at its fag end. The date of Thatcher entering office, 1979, is exactly halfway between 1945 and today. Therefore, we are 34 years from Thatcher’s first victory; and 34 years from then to Clement Attlee’s historic mandate. And given that there are detailed studies of ‘the post-war consensus’, we should be able to begin to do the same with Thatcherism, but instead we are still arguing over what it means. Read the rest of this entry »

What do we do when we talk (and don’t talk) about Power?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 9th 2013

The story of modern Scotland is an obvious one: we are a nation and a community, increasingly defined by these two terms and from this comes our sense of difference and identity.

Beyond that it begins to get complicated and contested; our prevailing account of ourselves is that we are centre-left, egalitarian, inclusive and radical, and the missing word in front of each of these is more; meaning more than England, which for many is the crucial ingredient.

All of the above contain elements of truth but they are also our modern myths, the stories we tell ourselves to understand who we are, which are part-fact, part-fiction, but which make us who we are. And to fully comprehend this we need to try and have some honest, reflective conversations about this, the nature of our public life, and the challenge of power, namely, who has it and who doesn’t, and how we understand it.

Let’s start with power. It is one of the central ingredients that makes the world go round. There are at least three versions of it in modern Scotland: hard power, intermediate power, and soft power. And for some reason we don’t want to talk too much about these in modern Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »

The Scottish Press, Generation Gridlock and Living with Crony Capitalism

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 21st 2013

The Scottish media and press are not exactly in a healthy state; facing pressures and constrictions from every angle, from the expectations and demands of an independence referendum, to disappearing audiences and revenues.

This is the backdrop to Leveson, the Scottish ‘expert’ response (the McCluskey report), and the debate so far.

Twenty years ago, the atmosphere was completely different, filled with the air of self-congratulation and smugness of everything being labeled ‘Scottish’ and the press defined by ‘Real Scots Read the Record’ versus ‘Rise Now and Be a Nation’ ‘Scottish Sun’.

How things change as Alex Massie’s poignant lament for a world slowly withering made clear. As he also pointed out, parts of the Scottish press with their limited, dwindling resources have been trying their best to do a decent job, unnoticed by large parts of their potential audience.

Yet there are many siren, certain voices who revel in the current situation. The most prevalent strand is that of a nationalist viewpoint who feel independence has not historically and still does not get a fair deal, from what has been until recent decades, a liberal unionist press. This allows them to embrace a rather unattractive schadenfreude and talk of the demise of a declining, failed industry. Read the rest of this entry »

Creating a Space for a Different Scottish Future

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, March 7th 2013

Thinking, imagining and attempting to create the future, and embracing and encouraging change, comes naturally to human beings.

We do these things everyday in numerous ways throughout our lives, subconsciously and unconsciously, usually without reflection or realisation. Recognising that we do is one of the first steps in demystifying these terms, democratising them, and taking them back from the consultancy class and from managerial jargon.

When I first saw Say So Scotland’s initiative to develop a Citizens’ Assembly I was initially wary, thinking it was ‘civic Scotland’ out on maneouvres. This looked like a kite flying exercise, post-SCVO’s ‘The Future of Scotland’ – something which has up until now been of limited impact. This perception was strengthened by the fact that the event would take place at SCVO’s ‘The Gathering’, the umbrella for lots of voluntary organisations showcasing themselves each year.

It turned out to be exactly the opposite. It was a self-organised, people-created and run initiative, borne and situated in ‘unofficial Scotland’ and organised by a group of motivated individuals. Read the rest of this entry »

Searching for the ‘New Tartan Tories’ of Scottish Public Life

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 11th 2012

Scottish politics has certainly burst into life in the last two weeks if the scale of overblown rhetoric and insult is any gauge.

The catalyst has been Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont’s speech challenging the consequences and cost-effectiveness of certain universal benefits in hardened financial times. The interventions from politicians and the ensuing public discussion tell us some revealing truths about our ability to have honest conversations.

Firstly, lets look at some of the language used in this debate. Lamont talked about a ‘something for nothing society’ and public policies being funded ‘all on the never-never’. This was a sloppy, ill thought out choice of words, or if it wasn’t, it was actually much worse.

However, even more erroneous was Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson’s intervention at the Tory conference where she claimed that ‘only 12% [of households] are responsible for generating Scotland’s wealth’. With this came the implication that 88% of households ‘put in nothing’: an inference which out gaffed American Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney’s discarding of 47% of the electorate who didn’t pay income tax  as ‘victims’ and ‘dependent upon government’. Elsewhere Davidson spoke of the public services as ‘the gangmaster state’: combining a toxic mix of hard right rhetoric and mafia talk. 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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