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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Devolution’

Where is the vision for Scotland’s First City: Glasgow?

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, July 11th 2019

Glasgow is Scotland’s first city in size and importance. There are of course several different Glasgows – from the official council area of 621,020 inhabitants to the metropolitan region of between 1.2 million to 1.7 million people, depending on the definition.

Glasgow matters. It’s success, wellbeing, vibrancy, the happiness of its people, sustainability, and state of its public realm all matter not just to the city, but to all of Scotland.

Sometimes it doesn’t feel like that to many Glaswegians. The past weekend saw GMB Scotland trade union boss Gary Smith talk of the city in fairly black and white terms. Smith called the city ‘filthy’ and ‘unkempt’, suffering from an ‘epidemic’ of rats, and claimed that it had lost its way and was in economic and political decline. Read the rest of this entry »

The Scottish Parliament at 20: Are we really ‘Children of the Devolution’?

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, July 1st 2019

It was twenty years ago today that the Scottish Parliament officially opened. Donald Dewar spoke eloquently, the Queen attended, and there was a small amount of pomp and circumstance in Edinburgh Old Town.

Time for reflection and an assessment – cue Allan Little’s ‘Children of the Devolution’ shown on the new BBC Scotland channel, and subsequently BBC Scotland (the last episode shown this Tuesday on the former, and Wednesday on the latter). This offers an appraisal of the past twenty years: the establishment of the Parliament, its impact, and how it has changed Scotland, politics and beyond.

The two parter opened with Little stating: ‘Twenty years ago our country awoke to a new dawn’, before adding: ‘We are all now children of devolution.’ The series has numerous talking heads including many prominent politicians who made their reputation over the past two decades including Nicola Sturgeon, Jack McConnell, Ruth Davidson, Wendy Alexander, Jim Wallace, Anas Sarwar, Andy Wightman and more. Two of our four living First Ministers – Alex Salmond and Henry McLeish – are not present, and neither is Tommy Sheridan. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

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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