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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Devolution’

1979: The beginning of the end of the ancien regime that ruled Scotland and the UK

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 1st 2019

Today is the 40th anniversary of Scotland going to the polls to vote in the first devolution referendum on Labour’s proposals for a Scottish Assembly.

This marked the beginning of Scotland’s constitutional revolution through referendums which, at the moment, stands at a triptych of 1979, 1997 and 2014 but which may have another addition. Despite this there will be no bunting, no ceremonies and no plaques unveiled to mark today. Both then and now, Labour’s plans for an Assembly were little loved and respected. But in retrospect it has become more and more obvious that they marked the beginning of the end of the ancien regime both in Scotland and the UK.

On 1 March 1979 Scottish voters supported devolution by 51.6% to 48.4%: a winning margin of 3.2%. The country was divided and not very enthusiastic. The Central Belt of Strathclyde, Lothian, Central and Fife voted for change (as did the Western Isles), but large parts of the rest of Scotland were suspicious: including Grampian, Tayside, Dumfries and Galloway and Borders, and Orkney and Shetland emphatically against (with the last two even asked a different question to allow an opt-out from the whole thing if it went ahead). 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 was twenty years ago: Scotland, our Parliament and the limits of Devolution

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, November 14th 2018

Twenty years ago Scotland began the devolution era when the Scotland Act 1998, which established the framework for the Scottish Parliament, achieved Royal Assent on 19 November 1998 – the final parliamentary debate having taken place two days before in the House of Lords.

Much has happened in the intervening twenty years. The Scottish Parliament was set up with a Scottish Executive, which morphed into the Scottish Government. Donald Dewar became the first of five First Ministers, and died tragically in October 2000. Labour-Lib Dem coalition administrations gave way to minority, then majority, then minority SNP rule.

A Parliament set up in George Robertson’s words to ‘kill nationalism stone dead’ has ended – by next year – with twelve years of continuous SNP administration following on from the first eight years of Labour-Lib Dem rule.

There was the rise and fall of the Scottish Socialists; the role of the Greens; the falloff of the Lib Dems; and rather implausibly for some, the return of the Scottish Tories from the shadows under the leadership of Ruth Davidson. Read the rest of this entry »

Are a ‘liberal elite’ really running Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 6th 2017

Is Scotland run by a ‘liberal junta’ or a ‘social junta’? This might seem a far-fetched notion but this is the charge made by Observer and Herald columnist Kevin McKenna (‘social junta’) and backed up by Iain Macwhirter (‘liberal junta’). I have enormous respect for both Kevin and Iain and value their many contributions to public life, but do think that on this they have got it badly wrong.

The argument put by McKenna in The Observer is that the Scottish Parliament is more focused on areas like tightening the ban on fox hunting, outlawing smacking on kids, and even minimum pricing on alcohol, than waging war on poverty and trying to support and change the lives of the poor.

This is in McKenna’s words ‘further proof of Holyrood’s obsession with the way ordinary people manage their families.’ In sweeping language he disses Scotland’s Parliament as a ‘collection of political confidence-tricksters’ who want to disguise ‘their wholesale betrayal of our poorest communities while blaming it all on the Tories.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Twenty years on maybe it is time to move on from devolution

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 13th 2017

Twenty years ago this week Scotland held a referendum and voted decisively for a Scottish Parliament and for it to have tax-raising powers. This anniversary provides an opportunity to look back and assess what the last twenty years has meant – measuring it against expectations, and the state of the nation.

It has also provided an excuse for some elements in the mainstream media to dust down the insults and attempt to trash the reputation of the Scottish Parliament and the devolution years.

The ‘Scottish Daily Express’ front page declared emphatically ‘Devolution ‘a waste of time’: Life no better for Scots, says poll’. If that wasn’t black and white enough for you, the ‘Scottish Daily Mail’ offered ‘Devolution ‘a failure’’. For the record, neither paper contained the afore-mentioned quotes in the pieces which followed. Jonathan Brocklebank in the ‘Mail’ called the Parliament: ‘The Mother of All White Elephants’, while Jason Allardyce in the ‘Sunday Times Scotland’ stated ‘Devolution has been a dud, say most Scots.’ 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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