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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

Where will the new ideas for Scotland’s public services come from?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 19th 2019

Scotland seems to be at an uneasy, calm place at the moment. The storm clouds are gathering on the horizon yet still seem distant – from the threat of Brexit and even worse the car crash of a No Deal Brexit – to the expected arrival of Boris Johnson as Tory leader and UK PM, while alongside this the Scottish Government demands that the UK Government listens to it on Brexit, so far to no avail, and considers how to progress a second independence referendum.

At the same time the Scottish Parliament has turned twenty. This milestone offers the chance to assess where we are, and the impact of devolution over the past two decades. For one, Scotland has been blessed by an absence of the fragmented, divided public services which exist in large parts of England, and which have seen, for example, huge sections of the NHS given over to private providers such as Virgin Healthcare and US health care companies.

Yet much of Scotland’s policy journey over the past two decades has been by default: by choosing not to do what England has done. This is namely the road of corporate capture of public services, marketisation, outsourcing, and continual reorganisation: a pattern evident under New Labour in England and continued by the Tories. Significant sections of Scotland rightly take pride from the fact that we have mostly resisted this approach, but it still begs the question: what are the big achievements and landmarks of public services in Scotland these past two decades? Read the rest of this entry »

Jo Swinson, Govan and Social Justice

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, June 4th 2019

The Liberal Democrats have a spring in their step. After years of taking a kicking and coming to terms with the near-complete wipeout of 2015, they have stormed back into the reckoning winning second place in the European elections. They feel that with Labour and Tories in trouble, the wind is blowing in their favour, and that they can offer a pan-British voice for Remain.

There is the hope of a fresh start with a leadership contest. This pitches Scottish MP Jo Swinson against Sir Ed Davey. Davey was a Cabinet minister in that coalition with responsibility for energy, while Swinson was junior equalities minister outside the Cabinet. Also rather germane it that Swinson managed to secure some successes which outlived the Lib Dem period in office on maternity and paternity rights.

The record and actions of the coalition hang heavily over the Lib Dems. Voters remember their broken promises, in particular, the volte face on student tuition fees, which saw the party’s MPs, Swinson and Davey included, support the introduction of £9,000 fees. Ultimately it was the Tories who gained most from the Lib Dems period in office, with David Cameron using them as a human shield. Read the rest of this entry »

Is there any hope for Scottish Labour? And does it matter to the rest of us?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, June 2nd 2019

Scottish Labour once carried all before it. They were admired by some, feared by others. They couldn’t be ignored, were taken seriously and mattered.

Today the party is not only struggling to be taken seriously by anyone, but has to fight for attention, battling to avoid the ignominy of being seen as irrelevant by most voters.

Many will say ‘hell mend them, they deserve their fate’ but the collapse of this once powerful party has consequences well beyond it. It begs the question – what wider impact does this have and is its shrunken condition terminal?

It is salutary to remind ourselves of what a state Labour are in. The party won a mere 9.3% of the vote in the Euro elections in Scotland. It lost its two MEPs, including the respected David Martin, the longest serving British MEP. Read the rest of this entry »

The coming of age of the Scottish Parliament … but has power shifted to the people?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, May 8th 2019

Twenty years ago last Monday Scotland went to the polls in the first democratic elections to the Scottish Parliament. This coming Sunday marks the anniversary of the first session of that Parliament which Winnie Ewing famously opened with the words: ‘The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25th 1707, is hereby reconvened.’

The new Parliament was elected with much goodwill, hope and energy, following the decisive 1997 devolution referendum. Polls showed that large majorities expected the Parliament to bring positive change on the economy, NHS, education, law and order and more, and at the same time to become the focal point of political life and decisions.

Twenty years is an appropriate point to assess the Parliament, its role and impact, and the politics and activities around it, and to ask whether it has lived up to its initial hopes, what it has achieved, and where all this might be heading? Read the rest of this entry »

The importance of hearing the sounds of silence

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, April 24th 2019

Art Garfunkel performed in Glasgow on Easter Sunday; in an age filled with what seems to be incessant noise, it has never been more critical than to listen to seek out, and listen to, the sounds of silence. Despite everything, they can be found.

Years ago when I was thinking about public debate I read A.L. Kennedy’s first book ‘Night Geometry and the Garscadden Trains’ – which has in it a passage which is an evocative hymn to the power and prevalence of silence. Kennedy wrote that in even the most noise-filled space there were gaps and silences, and these were as important as the noises. It changed how I thought of debate from then on.

Recently I came across Paul Goodman’s ‘Speaking and Language’ and in exploring silence he writes: ‘Not speaking and speaking are both human ways of being in the world and there are kinds and grades of each’. He then goes on to identify nine different types of silence, which is revealing, but not exhaustive. He does not discuss for example whether silence is consenting or non-consenting, something freely entered into, or imposed by others. 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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