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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Independence’

Scotland’s Independent Story isn’t over:

A Review of Yes/No: Inside the Indyref

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 19th 2019

As British politics enters a mixture of meltdown and an endgame, convulsed by Brexit, everywhere in political discourse there is an obsession with the past. From the rise of Churchill to unquestioned national hero, to the ultra-Brexiteers talking of the UK reduced to a ‘vassal state’ of the EU; and now, Speaker John Bercow announcing there cannot be a rerun of parliamentary votes due to a 1604 English convention, while being compared to Speaker William Lenthall who presided over the long Parliament and English civil war.

Such a fraught period seems the ideal moment to revisit that other time of near-UK meltdown, namely our indyref – the subject of a three-part documentary on the new BBC Scotland channel, ‘Yes/No: Inside the Indyref’, the last episode of which airs tonight. It is a welcome, long overdue production, coming four and a half years after that historic September 2014 vote, underlying the problems the Beeb has had in Scotland and the UK in coming to terms with such high octane existential politics.

The three programmes covered the political environment in light of the SNP winning a parliamentary majority in 2011 and the agreement of the Scottish and UK Governments on an indyref; from the announcement of the date to the last weeks of the campaign; and the hectic final period of Yes going into the lead and the resulting panic of No and the British political establishment. Read the rest of this entry »

The ‘F’ word rears its head again: Federalism and Labour

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 13th 2019

One political principle unites not just the Labour Party from Jeremy Corbyn to Tom Watson but also the Conservative Party – from Theresa May to the most ultra-Brexiteers in the Jacob Rees-Mogg faction.

That principle is a belief in parliamentary sovereignty: which for all its elevated sound actually means the right of governments to do what they like and not be bound by things like the rule of law, human rights or what previous administrations have done. It is of course a shibboleth, a fantasy and delusion, because in the real world, governments are actually constrained by all of these factors and cannot live in a world of absolutism.

The mirage of this particular fetishism was one of the driving forces in Brexit and the allure of ‘taking back control’. But it can also be seen in part of the Scottish independence debate with some talking about a version of undiluted sovereignty rather similar to Westminster, and equally impracticable. Indeed, these sorts of debates and the clinging to certainty they entail has risen as the world has in political and economic power become more about shared, fluid sovereignties. 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 »

Independence is about more than an indyref. It is about changing minds and Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, January 25th 2019

Independence has to be about more than tactics and processes – which has dominated too many conversations since 2014.

Independence is about more than an indyref – and in particular, timing, the question asked and how it comes about. This is politics as process and taking the substance for granted. And it is a trap too many independence supporters have fallen into post-2014.

The last four plus years have been a strange time in Scottish politics. The democratic spirit of the indyref has been allowed to wither and fade – as in part it must naturally. But it is a serious failure that subsequently no new forms of engagement have been created by the Scottish Government or other public bodies. Instead, for ‘official’ Scotland it has been back to business as usual, when the country could have risen to something better.

The SNP have shown little imagination post-2014 or understanding of the Scotland that emerged after the indyref. Instead, we have been offered a leadership which does little in the way of actual positive leadership: honesty about difficult issues, recognising hard choices, and challenging people to come out of their comfort zones. Rather we have been offered safety-first caution, command and control and silence on the big issues. Read the rest of this entry »

We Scots have to start listening to each other

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 23rd 2019

Brexit seems to have no end, consuming nearly all political energy and devouring those who come into contact with it. Or so it seems for now.

The Economist recently made the point in its ‘Bagehot’ column that one of the seldom understood groups in British politics were the long haulers. These were people who once occupied the margins of political life, and have now in the case of Brexiteers and Corbynistas, come centrestage and turned politics upside down.

These two groups involved people who refused to compromise and were once dismissed as dogmatists and cranks, but by standing firm have forced the mainstream to bend to their will. The Brexiteers were aided by successive Tory leaderships dismissing or appeasing them, culminating in David Cameron announcing an in-out referendum. And in the Corbynista case by the discrediting of the Blair-Brown project from the Iraq war onwards.

In their Westminster focus The Economist forgot one other group of long haulers who have shaken the foundations of politics: Scottish independence supporters. They, similarly, came in from the cold, where for decades they were caricatured as oddballs who did not understand the modern world. Now independence has remade Scottish and British politics and the union will never be the same again. 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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