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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Independence Referendum’

Salmond, Sturgeon and the End of an Era for the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 16th 2019

Britain stands at an abyss. Three years of endless Brexit deliberations have resulted in the UK facing crisis, doubt and anxiety about what the future holds. Politics has become a high wire act of competing intransigencies and denials of reality – with the only certainty that there is no easy way out of this mess or simple resolution.

This is a crisis of mainstream politics, democracy and Britain’s political parties. The Tories continue their thirty-year civil war on Europe, while Corbyn’s Labour continue to uphold constructive ambiguity informed by their leader’s long held Euroscepticism. The Lib Dems struggle for any relevance after the Cameron coalition.

If that were not enough, this present impasse has shown the limitations of British democracy, with Brexit debates reduced to Westminster parlour games shaped by the most obsessional opinions. This isn’t some arcane and elite concern, for underlying this is something even more serious: a deep seated malaise about what the idea of Britain is, and the grip of a reactionary, insular, backward looking English nationalism on the Tory Party, which has the potential not only to destroy the Tories but take all of us over the cliff into the abyss.

This is to put it mildly a historic moment for the UK – but as Fintan O’Toole has suggested one where there is a sense of anticlimax as much of the script has been written by a fantasy version of history. Brexit, he writes, is ‘full, not just of nostalgia, but of pseudo-history. It is an old curiosity shop of fake antiques.’ Read the rest of this entry »

Celebration and a Politics of Collective Joy is central to making Scotland’s Future

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 13th 2018

The sunshine has been out a lot in Scotland recently and in more ways than just the weather. It seems us Scots are feeling happier about things and more optimistic about the future – 36% look to the future with hope, whereas 29% of us feel that Scotland’s best days are behind us. Comparative English figures show that 17% feel optimistic about the future and 49% think that England’s best days are in the past.

The above figures tell us something about the state of Scotland and the state of England, of which Brexit is only a small part. This was part of the background to Nicola Sturgeon’s keynote speech to the SNP conference at Aberdeen where she had to deal with Brexit, independence stalled, and that the Growth Commission has annoyed a large section of her own supporters. It was a decent, well written and delivered speech with some good lines and three distinct parts: the record of the Scottish Government, Brexit and independence.

On the first part, Sturgeon listed an impressive range of Scottish Government achievements and actions which went beyond the usual shopping list. Instead, she cited minimum pricing for alcohol, a National Investment Bank, a transitional fund for businesses, a new Social Security Act with no rape clause, new support for carers, and an above cost of living pay increase for NHS staff. All in a tight corner and delivered by a devolved SNP Government in its eleventh year. Read the rest of this entry »

Independence has to be about more than an indyref. It is a state of mind

Gerry Hassan

Sunday Herald, May 13th 2018

Scotland and the UK feel in hiatus and stasis – awaiting the unfurling and unraveling of Brexit.

Some people are marching. Last Saturday’s gathering was significant given the lack of SNP and Scottish Green support. It shows the energy, but also frustration and impatience, in parts of independence opinion. But it also shows the limits of such a politics. Any movement that marches under banners like ‘Tory Scum Out’, and with Tommy Sheridan on the platform, isn’t out to win floating voters.

Four years after the 2014 referendum, independence faces difficult choices and challenges, none of which are answered by a politics of simple assertion, hectoring fainthearts or dealing in abstracts. Similarly, the absence of the SNP leadership facilitating a public debate about the strategic choices of independence has produced a huge vacuum, which some people have filled with passion, while others have become slowly disillusioned.

No one quite knows what Nicola Sturgeon is up to. Is she playing a longer game of inviting the UK Government to self-implode over Brexit? Is she slowly letting the political heat out of the Scottish situation to regroup at a latter stage. Maybe she is making it up as she goes along, but the absence of candour and honest reflection means that many are left thrashing about in the dark. Read the rest of this entry »

We have reached a watershed for UK politics: Time for independence to catch the wave of change

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 20th 2017

These are bewildering and often disorientating times to live in. In recent weeks and months it has felt at times difficult to keep up with the speed of events – as history has been seemingly made and remade every few days.

Such periods call for being honest, respectful in debate, and reflection and self-awareness in everything any of us say or do in public. Look around at the events in the UK and world and they rightly should imbue any of us with a humbleness and wariness of easy remedies.

That said the Scottish election results mark some kind of watershed. Take a couple of perspectives from the ‘Imagination: Scotland’s Festival of Ideas’ Scotland after the election event in Glasgow on Sunday. Peter Geoghegan said the election was ‘the end of the 2014 indyref road’. John Curtice that ‘Brexit has been as disruptive for the Nationalists – as for every other party.’ Angela Haggerty that independence was facing its ‘first big test’ since 2014.

Curtice pointed out that the SNP’s 37% was the tipping point of support for the party and FPTP working in its favour (the SNP won 35 out of 59 seats: 59%). Its support is relatively flatly distributed across the country compared to its opponents, and this produces according to Curtice for the SNP ‘feast or famine’. Any further fall of even a few percent and the electoral system will begin to work against the SNP – the way it currently does for Tories, Labour and Lib Dems – and did when the SNP broke through at Westminster in October 1974: their previous peak until 2015 and 2017. Read the rest of this entry »

Sorry seems to be the hardest word in Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 17th 2017

Power and privilege seldom likes to have to openly reflect on its place in front of others.

Instead, power likes to present its position as a natural state of affairs – to just be, manifesting and imbuing a sense of its own importance. This is how power exerts and expresses itself, from the City of London to senior bankers and the forces of international capitalism.

The same is true of Scotland and in recent years this has been aided by, in significant areas, power being in flux, challenged and even in crisis. This has in places forced it to openly talk about itself and hence its position. Examples of this include Royal Bank of Scotland after the crash, the Catholic Church and its serial scandals, or the implosion of CBI Scotland in the indyref.

Across a number of public institutions a common pattern can be observed about the way power and privilege operate when they are challenged. The three different examples chosen to illustrate this are one traditional force which imploded (Glasgow Rangers FC), one body which has played a central role in society (BBC Scotland), and another which has relatively recently become one of Scotland’s dominant institutions (the SNP). 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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