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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish politics’

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 »

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 Importance of the McCrone Report and Scotland’s Future

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, March 6th 2019

There was major interest and debate last week about a UK Government paper on Scotland – the McCrone report – written nearly 45 years ago.

The McCrone report was written in March 1974 by then Scottish Office civil servant Gavin McCrone for ministers in the aftermath of the UK general election the month previous. It was subsequently given a wider circulation in government in April 1975 with a covering letter but remained publicly unknown and unpublished until it emerged as a result of a SNP Freedom of Information request in 2005.

The report looked at the implications for Scotland and its economy of the coming on stream of North Sea oil, including revenue implications, and what this could mean for the prospect of an independent Scotland. 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 »

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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