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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Government’

A Time for Big Ideas for Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, February 16th 2020

Big ideas are important. Boris Johnson is talking about infrastructure projects, committing to HS2 and spending £106 billion of taxpayers’ monies. He also this week announced a review into the feasibility of a 20-mile long Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge that will cost £20 billion.

Irrespective of the merits of these projects, and the obvious point that the Scottish-Northern Irish bridge has next to no chance of ever being built, they mark a different kind of politics at least rhetorically from that of Boris Johnson’s immediate Tory predecessors.

These announcements raise big questions about the role of government, public spending and what is deliverable, feasible and believable. One strand which many on the left will understandably want to resist is that Johnson’s government is embarking on an era of raising selective public spending, a more interventionist state and greater role for government, amounting to a different kind of Conservatism compared to recent decades.

This brings up challenges for Scotland. What do we want to be defined by? What do we want to collectively organise and mobilise to do? What do we want to do which brings lasting change and directly transforms lives – beyond the constitutional question and independence? Read the rest of this entry »

The Declaration of Arbroath is Alive and Kicking in Modern Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 28th 2020

This year is the 700th anniversary of the Declaration of Arbroath. This seminal and pivotal point in Scottish history, in the making of our nation and collective imagination, still says something about each and everyone of us to this day. It has echoed down through the years, along with William Wallace, Robert the Bruce, Bannockburn and the Wars of Independence. These are all part of the foundation stories and myths of what Scotland is and what it means.

The Declaration was designed to secure papal recognition from Pope John XXII in Avignon of Scotland’s independence from the English vassalage of Edward II, son of Edward I, the supposed ‘Hammer of the Scots’. As important as this the words and rhetoric of the document chime and have resonance with debates and how Scotland sees itself through the years, and our autonomy, self-government and nationhood.

The great historian of Scotland T.C. Smout in his landmark ‘A History of the Scottish People’ said of the Declaration that it ‘expresses all the fierce nationalism of the 14th century’, while Geoffrey Barrow in ‘Robert Bruce and the Community of the Realm of Scotland’ wrote that it offered ‘no clearer statement of Scottish nationalism and patriotism in the 14th century’. Ted Cowan, author of a history of the Declaration has claimed that the document represents ‘the first national or governmental articulation, in all of Europe, of the principle of the contractual theory of monarchy which lies at the heart of modern constitutionalism.’

The Declaration matters, still speaks to us and to historians and their many interpretations of Scotland. Yet this overwhelming consensus is not completely universal today and was even less so in the past. The importance of the Declaration has waxed and waned over the years, and it has at times been marginalised, then rediscovered and reinterpreted. Read the rest of this entry »

Westminster and the Scottish Parliament: Who speaks for Scotland and who will decide its future?

Gerry Hassan

The Audience, January 22nd 2020

As expected Boris Johnson has said no to Nicola Sturgeon and her demand for a second Scottish independence referendum.

This will not be any surprise to anyone in the SNP, all those living in Scotland, or anyone who follows politics. It all had the air of inevitability, with only the tone and certainty of Johnson’s refusal having any element of surprise – born of the confidence of the recent election victory and his majority of 80 seats.

Constitutional stand-offs such as this, involving the UK and Scottish Governments at loggerheads, are not the sort of things we are used to in the UK. This is unchartered territory that raises the questions of what is going on, what is driving each government, and what if any are the long term consequences – for Scotland and the UK, and the causes of independence and the union?

The background to this is that Scotland held an indyref in September 2014 which resulted in a 55:45 vote for the union. The referendum had been agreed by the Scottish and UK Governments with the latter agreeing a Section 30 order – from the Scotland Act 1998 – to temporarily devolve the power to hold a vote on independence, normally a reserved matter. Subsequently, while the UK voted in June 2016 by 52:48 to leave the EU, Scotland voted 62:38 to remain, with the SNP subsequently claiming a mandate to have another independence vote – which would require Westminster agreement. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Boris Johnson cannot say no forever

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, January 19th 2020

Thirty years ago the Proclaimers sang ‘What do you do when Democracy’s all through? What do you do when minority means you?’

This was the environment in Scotland after Thatcher’s third term victory of 1987. The Proclaimers caught the denial of democracy and sense of powerlessness many felt in the face of that political juggernaut. They also gave voice to the need to name the democratic crisis of the UK as such and its impact on Scotland, while emphasising our collective refusal to acquiesce to it.

Many feel that these sentiments resonate down through the years to the present. They feel that Scotland is trapped and that democracy is being denigrated. All of this raises the questions: what do we do after Boris Johnson has said no? Can he really go on indefinitely saying no? And how should the Scottish Government and wider independence movement respond?

Johnson’s defiant stand follows on from two years of Theresa May saying ‘now is not the time’. The latter was obviously playing for time: a hope that something would somehow turn up which would change events north of the border. Read the rest of this entry »

Why the Alex Salmond controversy matters beyond politics

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 29th 2018

There has only been one story in the last few days in Scotland; that of Alex Salmond.

The substantive allegations and Alex Salmond’s response and denial of any wrong-doing have been amply catalogued. The whole controversy covers many issues – alleged wrong doing, how to deal with such sensitive subjects, the role of the media and wider politics, and how justice is done and seen to be done, including how we treat those accused as well as their accusers.

Given there has been so much media coverage, instant comment and judgement I want to look at the big picture, and specifically two areas – how people have responded, and what, if any, wider consequences may flow from this.

Take the reactions of Salmond supporters. First it should be acknowledged that the vast majority of pro-independence and SNP opinion has publicly been very respectful and careful in what it has said. Nicola Sturgeon has set an important direction in what is a test of her leadership and clearly a difficult issue for her.

For a small minority of uber-believers Salmond can do no wrong and they will stand with him seemingly unconditionally. The range of responses this has brought has been telling, from social media images of ‘When I was in trouble … Alex stood with me … Until I hear differently, I’m with Alex’ to much more. Read the rest of this entry »

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Gerry Hassan is a writer, commentator and thinker about Scotland, the UK, politics and ideas. more >
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