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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Devolution’

Where will the new ideas for Scotland’s public services come from?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 19th 2019

Scotland seems to be at an uneasy, calm place at the moment. The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon yet still seem distant – from the threat of Brexit and even worse the car crash of a No Deal Brexit – to the expected arrival of Boris Johnson as Tory leader and UK PM, while alongside this the Scottish Government demands that the UK Government listens to it on Brexit, so far to no avail, and considers how to progress a second independence referendum.

At the same time the Scottish Parliament has turned twenty. This milestone offers the chance to assess where we are, and the impact of devolution over the past two decades. For one, Scotland has been blessed by an absence of the fragmented, divided public services which exist in large parts of England, and which have seen, for example, huge sections of the NHS given over to private providers such as Virgin Healthcare and US health care companies.

Yet much of Scotland’s policy journey over the past two decades has been by default: by choosing not to do what England has done. This is namely the road of corporate capture of public services, marketisation, outsourcing, and continual reorganisation: a pattern evident under New Labour in England and continued by the Tories. Significant sections of Scotland rightly take pride from the fact that we have mostly resisted this approach, but it still begs the question: what are the big achievements and landmarks of public services in Scotland these past two decades? Read the rest of this entry »

The coming of age of the Scottish Parliament … but has power shifted to the people?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 8th 2019

Twenty years ago last Monday Scotland went to the polls in the first democratic elections to the Scottish Parliament. This coming Sunday marks the anniversary of the first session of that Parliament which Winnie Ewing famously opened with the words: ‘The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25th 1707, is hereby reconvened.’

The new Parliament was elected with much goodwill, hope and energy, following the decisive 1997 devolution referendum. Polls showed that large majorities expected the Parliament to bring positive change on the economy, NHS, education, law and order and more, and at the same time to become the focal point of political life and decisions.

Twenty years is an appropriate point to assess the Parliament, its role and impact, and the politics and activities around it, and to ask whether it has lived up to its initial hopes, what it has achieved, and where all this might be heading? Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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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