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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Unionism’

Dreaming of a Different Scotland: Alt Independence and Alt Unionism

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, February 26th 2013

Social justice is everywhere north of the border. It has always been about, but now it has become more explicit, as the debate on Scotland’s independence referendum hots up, the Westminster Government’s welfare plans show their character and the Tory intent at inhumane social engineering, while the market fundamentalist project of the last three decades proposes at the moment of crisis and doubt, to go into over-drive.

The last week has seen Anas Sarwar, Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour give an important speech on this terrain, followed by at the close of the week ‘Yes Scotland’s’ mini-summit on social justice and its response (1) to the STUC’s ‘A Just Scotland’ document (2).

In-between we have had another litany of grim statistics telling the familiar story: of the inequality, poverty and exclusion in Glasgow and parts of the West of Scotland (3). And the now well-trodden path of politicians and public sector professionals saying they have learned from the past and embraced new thinking. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland as an Idea and Place of Substance

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, December 29th 2012

It has been a tumultuous year, across Europe, the world, and in its own way for Scotland.

It was the year that the independence referendum was agreed, of the collapse and rebirth of Rangers FC, and the continued decline of the British establishment and public trust in it.

At the year’s end, the Radical Independence Conference brought together a new generation of twentysomething activists, Creative Scotland parted company with much of the arts world (and lost as a result two of its senior figures), and Alasdair Gray started a controversy about ‘colonisers’ and ‘settlers’.

Two observations stem from the above. The first is that the public life of Scotland does not in many places do, or feel comfortable with, seriousness and substance. The second is, as Bill Jamieson eloquently wrote last week, the importance of the notion that Scotland ‘is more an idea than a place’, and the tensions inherent in these differing interpretations of Scotland. Read the rest of this entry »

Manifesto for a Culture of Self-Determination

Gerry Hassan

National Collective/Open Democracy, December 5th 2012

Introduction: Scottish Politics and Language

In the last few weeks people have become increasingly aware, and to some extent concerned, about the rising prevalence of a culture of abuse, insult and invective in Scottish politics around and associated with the independence referendum.

There is a longer story to this, of the failure and dogma of Labour unionism, of the SNP’s adoption of command and control politics, and of an embryonic self-government movement unable so far to find full form and voice.

At the same time the recent Radical Independence Conference, held in Glasgow, for all its ultra-left origins and numerous posturings about ‘vanguardism’, caught something of a new energy and significant shift. It brought together over 900 people on a Saturday, from a range of backgrounds, places and politics, including a generation of politicised twentysomethings for whom Blair and New Labour are as much history as Thatcherism. It gathered under one banner a whole swathe of people who wanted to talk not in the old language of the left or traditional nationalism, but of hope, self-organisation and self-determination, in what was the biggest political gathering in Scotland since the Scottish Parliament was set up. Something is clearly stirring.

Yet parts of our political classes are locked in a gridlock of despair. Alastair Darling talked recently of Scottish independence as ‘the road to serfdom’. Gordon Brown similarly declared that independence would lead to Scotland becoming the equivalent of ‘a British colony’. These are serious interventions by senior Labour Westminster politicians and display a deliberate decision to caricature and misunderstand the issues and dynamics of Scottish independence and self-government. Read the rest of this entry »

The Problem with the ‘No’ Men

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 17th 2012

The debate on the future of Scotland’s constitutional status has many legitimate views: pro-union, pro-independence, and the middling Scotland sitting uneasily in-between.

In the last two weeks, the tenor of part of the debate has begun to change. Alistair Darling, head of the ‘No’ camp, in the John P. Mackintosh lecture, one of Scottish Labour’s few post-war cerebral figures, has talked of independence as ‘the road to serfdom’.

Darling stated that ‘an independent Scotland would rejoin the UK’ and continued, with a mindset of simplistic separatism, predicting that ‘British music will no longer be our music’, and suggesting that British culture and sporting achievement would thus become foreign.

The previous week, Gordon Brown, in a similar high profile intervention, said that independence would mean Scotland becoming the equivalent of a ‘British colony’. SNP plans were he argued ‘a form of self-imposed colonialism more reminiscent of the old Empire’. Read the rest of this entry »

Time to Wake Up to the Realities of Fantasy Island Britain

Gerry Hassan

Scottish Review, September 13th 2012

The ‘phoney war’ of the referendum long debate seems like it is slowly coming to an end with Nicola Sturgeon’s appointment as SNP campaign head. In so doing, it has illustrated the paucity of much of what has passed for discussion so far.

There are significant omissions and avoidances on the Nationalist side – the presentation of independence as continuity, a new state of affairs where everything can be different and the same, and where we can still be British and in the UK.

This is true but another major problem in the debate is the shadow boxing and point scoring of a significant element of pro-union/anti-independence opinion. By this I don’t mean the floating of just plain daft ideas, such as the suggestion that parts of Scotland which vote ‘no’ could remain part of the UK in a Balkanised Scotland of the future. Thanks very much Jim Wallace for trying to give that some credibility! 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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