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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Breaking the Taboos and Silences of Belting Scotland’s Children

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 11th 2018

Scottish education has always had an important, even disproportionate place in society – emphasising its distinctiveness, traditions, and of course, multiple individual stories and experiences.

Yet our education system has had for all the good and positive stories, too many which are bad and dark. This legacy continues to this day. For all the pride in the best of our schools and education, there has been a historical culture of fear, punishment and violence, and teachers and authority using power inappropriately to control children.

These attitudes are often assumed to be in the past, but they haven’t left us fully. A ComRes survey at the end of 2017, produced due to Scottish Government backed proposals to ban the smacking of children, showed that a tolerance of violence was widespread. 74% of adults in Scotland surveyed did not think that smacking a child should be a criminal offence; seven in ten said smacking was not child abuse; an astonishing 85% said they were smacked as a child, while 66% said it was sometimes necessary to smack a child. We have grown up with a culture of violence towards children which not surprisingly still affects present day attitudes.

This was brought into public view by the recent debate on belting which began in the ‘Scottish Review’s’ piece by Carol Craig that motivated Ian Jack to reply in ‘The Guardian’ that belting might have been ‘unfair’ but that it ‘had done me no harm’ – a view that unleashed an avalanche of reflections about corporal punishment and violence against children. Read the rest of this entry »

In Praise of Gentleness

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 28th 2018

Where is the gentleness in life? Instead – in too many places – we have a surfeit of anger, dislocation and frustration.

For some the big issues of the day necessitate, even demand, such assertive and sometimes negative qualities. We live in times defined by corporate dishonesty, brazenness and theft, where the vast majority of us feel unheard, marginalised, alienated and silenced. Anger is clearly an understandable response, but can only take us so far, and too often blows itself out through exhaustion and disillusion.

Too much of public life seems to be a search for the guilty, condemning others, playing the person not the ball, and being driven by immediate comment and criticism with little to no reflection.

This is our modern world, and one many see as aided and reinforced by the environment of social media, Facebook, and Twitter. Yet, something more is surely at work. There is the decline of authority, the weakening of trust, an absence of leaders that we look up too and believe in, and a diminishing of the social bonds, connections and shared values which hold societies together. Read the rest of this entry »

Culture in Scotland in the midst of storms: A Call for Dangerous Cultures

Gerry Hassan

Bella Caledonia, March 16th 2018

Culture in Scotland is in difficult times: public spending cuts, the lost decade of stagnant living standards for the vast majority of people, limits to the Scottish Government’s largesse and devolution powers, controversy over Creative Scotland’s decision making and funding priorities resulting in the debate over the future of the Scottish Youth Theatre – and much more (with some questioning the continued existence of Creative Scotland).

If you think these are dangerous waters you ain’t seen nothing yet. While some yearn for the headwinds of populism, revolt and voter dissatisfaction to blow themselves out and ‘normal’ politics to resume, others recognise that what was normal was part of the problem and one of the reasons we got into the current mess. Restoration politics and culture which is what some dream of isn’t aiming very high.

Instead, we inhabit an age of broken mainstream politics, a discredited economic model, big questions about accountability, ethics and responsibility in both public life and in what is called private life, but is increasingly a contested arena. That’s without mentioning Brexit, Trump, the ineptitudes of the Theresa May UK Government, and that nearly everywhere in the developed world those notionally in control have lost their confidence, while continuing to pretend otherwise. Read the rest of this entry »

As Brexit Britain heads for the rocks what does Corbyn’s Labour stand for?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 14th 2018

The diminished global status of Britain and our future post-Brexit has been on display in the last few days. The attempted murder of Sergei Skripa and his daughter Yulia and the possible role of Russian authorities; the visit of the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince, and the continued saga of Donald Trump’s unpredictable, erratic Presidency from trade wars to his state visit, all illustrate the challenges a diminished UK will face in the aftermath of Brexit.

Twenty-one months on from the Brexit vote we have no clear plan or detail from the UK Government. Indeed, the kind of Brexit and Britain which the UK Government represents is nothing more than a sketch and vague principles, much to the increasing consternation of the EU and the remaining 27 nation-states.

Brexit is full of contradictions, tensions and paradoxes. Can the fabled Tory Party with its reputation for statecraft really be reduced to its current incompetence and divisions? This has come after decades of Tory appeasement of Euroscepticism, culminating in David Cameron’s infamous pledge in 2013 to hold an in/out referendum: a pledge he though he would never have to deliver; then followed by his attempt to secure renegotiated terms of EU membership – with echoes of Harold Wilson in 1975; and subsequent referendum campaign and Brexit triumph. Read the rest of this entry »

A Warning from the Past: What happened to Scottish Labour could happen to the SNP

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, February 14th 2018

What goes up must come down is a truism worth remembering in relation to politics – as well as to economics and every kind of asset or property bubble.

There once was a political party in Scotland which saw itself as the embodiment of the radical tradition, in touch with voters, and embodying social justice. It became more and more complacent, self-congratulatory, and out of touch – eventually morphing into the Scottish establishment. That party was the Scottish Labour Party.

The received wisdom of many people in each party about Scottish Labour and SNP is that no two parties could be more different. But in reality the similarities are much more real than the differences. Take current politics. The emergence of a Corbyn factor north of the border has changed our political dynamics. This became a live issue particularly in the 2017 election and its aftermath. It established Labour on the left flank of the SNP and illuminated the SNP’s cautious centrism which the party leadership has judged pre-Corbyn to be enough to present themselves in social democratic colours. 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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