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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Review’

An Example of the Good Public Life for All of Us: Nigel Smith

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 22nd 2020

Nigel Smith who died unexpectedly at his home in Campsie Glen in East Dunbartonshire last week at the age of 78 was never a household name. Many reading this will never have heard of him, but he was an important figure in the public life of Scotland and the UK over the past 25 years.

In his working life, Nigel was a businessman, running his own engineering company in Glasgow’s Springburn for just under 30 years. More than this, he was active in public life especially concerning referendums in Scotland, the UK and internationally; and in other major issues such as the future of broadcasting.

Nigel was that rare creature – a pro-devolution businessman who felt that bodies like CBI Scotland did not speak for him, or for a whole swathe of opinion supportive or sympathetic to a Scottish Parliament.

In the 1979 referendum he had some small involvement in the campaign and the group ‘Business for Yes’. This was to be a salutary experience, because the pro-devolution campaign was divided and outmanoeuvred by its opponents, lacking a single umbrella organisation due to Labour-SNP mutual suspicion. Read the rest of this entry »

The Royal Family Story is more than mere soap opera

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 15th 2020

The world of 2020 is filled with important events and news: the Iran-US conflict, Australian bush fires sweeping the continent, and the ongoing Brexit process.

Yet what story has dominated the UK media to a claustrophobic and obsessional degree in the early days of the new year? The answer is none of the above but the ongoing crises of the Royal Family engendered by Harry and Meghan’s declaration of semi-independence.

This saga has nearly everything for the modern media including familiar reference points, well-known characters (some loved more than others), and a rich back history.

More than this the royal obsession goes to the heart of what Britain is and what it represents, its established elite history and traditions, the protection and veneration of old and new monies, while offering an alternative and enduring concept of power and legitimacy to the democratic will. And if that were not enough it also engages with class, inter-generational relationships and rivalries, sexism and racism. Read the rest of this entry »

Whose Edinburgh is it anyway?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, January 8th 2020

Edinburgh has been feeling good about itself or – to be accurate – those who claim to speak for the city, its public agencies and business organisations have been feeling this about themselves and the city. They feel the city has had an unprecedented decade of growth, has bounced back from the crash and implosion of Fred Goodwin’s RBS, and that the future is rosy, of continued prosperity and good times.

Alongside this neverending mantra storm clouds and criticism have increasingly been becoming more vocal, most publicly connected to the recent controversies over the scale and management of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay celebrations, the Princes Street Christmas market and the Loony Dook at South Queensferry.

In each of these there are common threads which tie into a wider, damning picture of the state of the city. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay is presented as one long glorious street party in the picturesque surroundings of the city centre and backdrop of the castle. The reality of the annual event is that it has been getting bigger and bigger year on year, with the event ticketed, controlled and numbers limited due to demand. Read the rest of this entry »

The 2019 election and the End Games of Imperial Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 17th 2019

The 2019 UK election campaign had few memorable moments, but despite this the result will have implications for most of us for the rest of our lives.

Maybe this is what ugly history looks like. The phrase ‘British politics’ is now a misnomer. There is no real UK-wide politics, rather a distinct four nations politics, and within this all kinds of divisions and cleavages – of young and old; within the working class; in education and housing; and between and within cities, towns and rural areas.

A stark contrast is the different UK and Scottish mandates. Boris Johnson’s Tories were elected with 43.6% of the vote, 365 seats and an overall majority of 80. This is the highest Tory vote since 1979 and first overall working majority since 1987. Caveats should be made. For all the media hype of Johnson’s appeal to former Labour voters, he and his government remained throughout the campaign hugely unpopular by historic standards – with Johnson as unpopular as John Major was in the 1997 Labour landslide. Read the rest of this entry »

Isn’t it time we got serious about democracy?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 12th 2019

Democracy is not in good health in the UK or across most of the developed world. The UK election has not been, putting it mildly, an edifying spectacle or healthy clash of ideas and interests. Instead, it has signalled something deeply wrong in the democratic process – something that the political classes do not seem to understand needs to fundamentally change.

This election has not felt owned by people. Rather it has felt like something done to voters by others. This malaise is evident everywhere in the ever present vox pops with one voter declaring on Monday that politics and politicians were even invading morning TV, sighing about the election: ‘we cannot escape it’.

The inference is that we are far removed from the age when people themselves created and could see themselves collectively in the democratic process. No longer do people feel this is their democracy; rather it feels like someone else’s story – an exercise in window dressing run for the benefit of the political classes.

Once upon a time election campaigns happened out there – in constituencies up and down the land – and then those events and occasions were reported in the media. Nowadays, there is little real campaigning in the traditional sense, but all sorts of stand-alone, pop up, voter contact and virtual events and happenings. Much of this, if not nearly all of this, is done to provide the media, particularly the broadcast media, with content and pictures. We have turned full circle in the campaign-media relationship, with the latter reporting activities that are not organic or grass root, but rather a replica and pretence – and voters can sense it. 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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