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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Devolution’

How do we have a Genuine People’s Democracy?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Mail, January 25th 2015

It was UK Democracy Day last week – 800 years since Magna Carta. And on the same day of the announcement that the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq war would not be published until after the May general election – hardly an advert for British democracy.

Then it was the debate about the on-off TV election debates. Was Cameron or Miliband more chicken? Will the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Greens finally get their place on the UK platform?

There was also the publication of draft legislation deriving from the recent Smith Commission, identifying more promised devolved powers to Scotland: income tax, some welfare powers, and, not insubstantial, areas such as the Crown Estate.

The usual party politicking broke out. David Cameron said this would result in one of the most powerful devolved institutions in the world. Margaret Curran spoke of a ‘Powerhouse Parliament’. Pro-union politicians claimed that the ‘Vow’ had been delivered. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland’s Constitution and the Strange Non-Death of ‘Civic Scotland’

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 2nd 2014

Scotland is to have its own constitution. Two years exactly to the day that Scotland could become an independent nation, Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made the announcement that many had long anticipated and suspected.

This was a significant moment with huge import, whatever the result of the independence referendum. It can be seen as confirmation of Scotland’s slow reassertion of itself as a distinct political community, but was also filled with all the usual tropes and references: ‘enshrining Scottish values’, the ‘sovereignty of the people’, and the evoking of a ‘Scottish Constitutional Convention’.

This revealing announcement seems to signify the strange non-death of ‘civic Scotland’ – that amorphous part of polite respectable society, first identified hanging around middle class, well-heeled parts of Edinburgh and Glasgow in the early 1980s, at least in the eyes of government. Read the rest of this entry »

The Missing Voices of Public Life and How We Create a Different Scotland

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 9th 2013

To many of the tribes and partisans who inhabit our public life, all that matters is the contest and defeating their opponents. Democracy and politics in this mindset are in fine working order, beyond the difficulty of trying to get your own way!

In reality, Scottish democracy barely exists in any meaningful sense. The 1707 settlement guaranteed the autonomy of ‘the holy trinity’ of Kirk, education and law, giving prominence to these institutional identities, which came to the fore as government and its affairs of state went south.

Then distinctive Scottish administration from Victorian times began to expand and in so doing another definition was added: that of the dynamic, managerial do-er. This was an apolitical, often bureaucratic identity: the world of Lord Reith, Walter Elliot and Tom Johnston.

So it remained until the arrival of the SNP shook things up in the 1960s, and then finally the establishment of the Scottish Parliament in 1999. To some this has democratised and nornalised Scotland, but it has left underneath and around the Parliament the same institutions and networks running most things. Read the rest of this entry »

What is the point of Scotland’s Westminster Politicians?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 2nd 2013

Once upon a time Scottish politics meant one of two things: what your local council got up too, and Scottish MPs standing on College Green talking on BBC and STV about what often seemed far-flung issues.

The latter were our only articulation of national party politics. And while it now seems a long time ago it did produce a sort of effective politics and a range of ‘Big Beasts’ – from Tom Johnston and Willie Ross to George Younger, Malcolm Rifkind and Gordon Brown, to name but a few.

This was the age of what was called in polite circles, ‘the Scottish lobby’, but which also went privately by the names, ‘Scottish’ or ‘tartan mafia’. The romantic version of this is the folklore of ‘Red Clydeside’ and the 1922 general election when the city of Glasgow saw ten of its fifteen constituencies return Labour MPs for the first time. Upon their departure from St. Enoch railway station with crowds singing the ‘Red Flag’ they went south to change the Commons, but in the eyes of left-wing critics were more changed by parliament themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

What did devolution ever do for Easterhouse?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, October 5th 2013

Labour likes to think that ‘devolution’, like the NHS is its exclusive project. ‘We legislated for the Scottish Parliament’ you hear on occasion from numerous party spokespeople.

This is proprietorial, but there is also a Labour story which stresses that devolution is about changing Scotland, better governance and improving lives, differentiating it from the Tories and SNP.

However, Margaret Curran, Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland in the last week made remarks at Labour conference which seem to raise questions about how the party sees the whole devolution project, and which warrant further investigation.

Curran said, ‘We need to ask ourselves some questions about (devolution). Has it made health better in Easterhouse?’ And she went on, ‘Has it made education better in Easterhouse? And there are a lot of question marks over that’. 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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