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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Social Democracy’

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 »

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 »

Where is Radical Scotland and does it really exist?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, December 12th 2018

As the United Kingdom seemingly collapses and its political class shows unprecedented incompetence, where stands Scotland? Where is that much talked about sentiment that we are radical, different, and more left-wing than the rest of the UK?

For some all that matters in the above is difference and the elixir of sovereignty; ‘Take Back Control’ and don’t worry about detail and all the other stuff until we are on the other side of independence. This is rather reminiscent of the version of Brexit as presented by Leave in the 2016 referendum – which did not present any practical offer and just invited people to luxuriate in the warm sunny uplands of the freedom of Brexit Britain. That has not exactly worked to plan as this vague fantasy has hit the cold winds of reality: a warning for any future politics planning similar exercises here or anywhere.

Radical Scotland and its claims centre on a series of different Scottish political choices – that we do universalism more, that we have more humanity and compassion on welfare, and that we have a more progressive set of values as a political community. 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 »

Is Scotland really a social democratic country?

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, October 18th 2017

At last week’s SNP conference in the middle of her keynote speech, Nicola Sturgeon asked: ‘What kind of country do we want to be?’ She wasn’t expecting an answer, and seemed surprised when a member of the party faithful shouted out ‘an independent one.’

Behind Sturgeon’s non-question is the belief in Scottish difference, the efficacy of our values, and the link of both of these to the idea of Scotland as a social democratic country. Thus, around the conference chatter and commentary, Lesley Riddoch on Sky News spoke of ‘a social democratic consensus’ in Scotland, while Iain Macwhirter on the BBC talked of ‘a social democratic politics.’

Scotland as a land of social democracy has become the lexicon of our politics. It has accelerated under devolution, contributing to the mood music of the political environment and institutions. This has become even more pronounced under SNP rule, for obvious reasons, as the difference between Scotland and England politically is emphasised – Scotland social democratic good; England neo-liberal bad. 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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