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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Independence’

The Brexit Disaster is an Existential Crisis in the ‘Idea’ of Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 5th 2018

Last week I attended an event at Dundee University on the ideas and impact of the Scottish thinker Tom Nairn. Many of his books were discussed, including his critique of the monarchy, and the insularity of the British left, but his most important work – ‘The Break-Up of Britain’ – published 41 years ago, seems more relevant than ever as we live through Brexit.

‘The Break-Up of Britain’ explores the archaic, ossified relic that is the British state; undemocratic, anti-modern and that sees itself as ‘the mother of Parliaments’. It is also a book in which the state of England is central to this mindset – its gathering unease at events in Europe and the European project, and in which a reactionary English nationalism is emerging, initially around Enoch Powell (who was obsessed with ‘sovereignty’), but then taken up by Thatcher, and now by Brexiteers.

Brexit has caused many surprises, but it should not have come as a surprise. The UK Government has shown a scale of incompetence unprecedented in recent times. Leavers have had a cavalier disregard with coming up with a feasible plan for leaving, while the Labour Party has been too often posted missing in action without a Brexit policy worthy of the name. And to cap it all, Theresa May and her Tory Government have managed to lose three Brexit parliamentary votes in a single day – including for the first time having a UK Government held in contempt of Parliament. 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 »

Britain and Scotland have changed: The Tory Story of Britain is Dead

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, October 3rd 2018

The British Conservative Party is one of the most successful electoral parties in the developed capitalist world. They might not look like it at the moment but this is a force which has adapted to numerous challenges and changes: the coming of the mass franchise and rise of the working class, emergence of Labour, the post-war settlement, and demise of Empire and the UK’s diminished global standing and influence.

The Tories are the party of privilege and entitlement; of a ruling class which has presided over a version of Britain which has been historically run for the few, not the many, but which has invited the vast majority of us into their political and social construction of prosperity, affluence and social mobility.

Having said that the Tory Party has always been more than the hard-nosed, selfish, greedy capitalists of leftist legend. Indeed, it can be said that the left-wing caricature of Toryism and Tories (‘Tory scum’ etc) has not only held back a more successful left politics, but it has aided Tories who have on occasion been able to defy these stereotypes: for example, in Macmillan’s promise to build 300,000 houses a year and by Thatcher’s council house sales appealing to working class voters. Read the rest of this entry »

Speaking for Scotland: The Salmond Case, Independence and the Silences of Modern Life

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 5th 2018

The Salmond controversy has garnered huge press coverage. Beyond the actual cases itself, this says a lot about the state of Scotland. I am not making any assumptions about the guilt or innocence of Alex Salmond or the veracity of the accusations. This case is not just about Salmond or the allegations, but casts a wider light on some aspects of Scottish life, with certain parts of society not coming up smelling of roses.

A caveat. ‘This is what we have become’ said Kenny Farquharson. No ‘we’ have not. This is not about the ugliness and hatred in all of us, but in parts of Scotland. All societies have unsavoury opinion and haters: we have to confront ours and not give them the power of assuming they speak for all Scotland.

In this piece I concentrate primarily on the comments and attitudes of Salmond supporters – mostly the private citizens who responded to the crowdfunder, welter of comments on social media, and the odd intervention from public figures – and consider what their views tell us about what they think of the world.

  1. Salmond’s crowdfunder

Salmond’s crowdfunder was a statement of what he could do, and of what he has – status and pulling power. As Dani Garavelli wrote, ‘What was his crowdfunder, if not a display of power and popularity?’ It was a problematic action in relation to the course of justice being allowed to take its course. Glasgow University legal academic James Chalmers observed: ‘his crowdfunder does not state what decision he seeks to challenge in a JR [Judicial Review], nor what remedy he is seeking in that process’. And why does someone like Salmond need to go out with his collecting bucket to the general public? 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 »

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