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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Nationalism’

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 »

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 »

Brexit is aiding the break-up of Britain but this crisis has deeper roots

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 20th 2018

Brexit isn’t going well. Two years after the referendum vote for the UK to leave the EU there is still no agreed plan on what kind of Brexit the UK Government wants. Theresa May’s administration staggers from day to day – too weak to dare to define what it stands for – facing regular crises, critical parliamentary votes and defeats.

Last week, after Scottish affairs was reduced to 15 minutes in the House of Commons, the SNP walked out during Prime Minister’s Questions, resulting in much media comment and headlines. But as the immediate shockwaves die down – does any of this have any longer term impact?

A short summary of events so far might be helpful. The UK Government’s Brexit plans have consequences for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, with the government meant to consult the three territories on what powers come back to the nations as a result of Brexit. Northern Ireland hasn’t had a devolved government since January 2017; Wales has, after much disquiet, given its agreement, but the Scottish Government and Parliament has not agreed with the latter withholding its consent from Brexit. All parties in the Parliament – SNP, Labour, Lib Dem and Scottish Green – agreed that the Tory form of Brexit is not acceptable – with only Ruth Davidson’s Tories siding with Westminster. Read the rest of this entry »

The Good Ship Britannia Sinks Below the Waves: Scotland, Brexit and the Thoughts of Tim Shipman

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, June 13th 2018

The events of the last two days have shown how the British establishment, political classes and their supporters view the UK. There is the contempt and chaos in the Brexit process; ‘Taking Back Control’ has come down to running roughshod over parliamentary processes, Henry VIII powers, with Scotland being treated with the disdain of a mere fifteen-minute non-debate on the key Brexit bill. Similarly, crocodile tears for Northern Ireland were shown to be empty – with no debate and reference in yesterday’s session of mammoth votes for concerns about the border and the so-called ‘backstop’.

The reactions of our commentariat have been just as revealing. This is Tim Shipman, Political Editor of the Sunday Times and his description of devolution:

Powers were always owned by London and devolved down. They were never, and could never be, owned by Edinburgh. They’ll be devolved down again but legally they are in London’s gift. If you have a country, that’s how it works. You may not wish to be part of UK, but win a referendum. Read the rest of this entry »

Alex Salmond, Showbiz and whatever happened to the politics of optimism?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, August 16th 2017

All political leaders have a certain limited shelf life. If they are very successful and lucky they win elections, hold power and make decisions, but the public eventually grow tired and wary of their constant public presence.

The twilight years and long goodbyes of the likes of Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, Ted Heath and his thirty year grudge with Thatcher, are all examples of how difficult many find the transition. Thatcher, whatever your political views of her, won three elections in a row, and after her party overthrew her, pined for the call to return. Blair, despite his millions and acclaim from various despots, yearns for domestic political influence and has, until the June election, been making plans for a new pro-EU centrist party – which might now be off or still on.

The SNP and Scottish nationalism has played a huge part in our recent history and central to this has been Alex Salmond who led the party over two periods and twenty years: 1990-2000 and 2004 and 2014.

There are numerous achievements to his leadership in changing the SNP and Scotland permanently. First, he professionalised how the SNP conducted itself and politics, bringing a discipline and self-denying ordinance. The SNP became a party which looked outward and to win – a shift from the 1980s inward obsessions (and also with Scottish Labour’s lack of extrovert interest in winning floating voters at the time). 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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