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Posts Tagged ‘Scottish Unionism’

The Battle for Britain and Why Alex Salmond and Independence Has Already Won

Gerry Hassan

Open Democracy, February 7th 2014

This year is witnessing several battles for Britain – of numerous anniversaries of past military triumphs, of the Scottish independence referendum, and the rising tide of the Tory Party’s continued obsession with Europe.

All of these are inter-related in the long-term, almost existential, crisis of what Britain is, what is it for, what kind of society and values it represents, and what kind of future it offers its people. This tumultuous moment we now find ourselves in is one with many layers: economic, social, democratic, and even geo-political (in where Britain aspires to ally itself internationally).

The Scottish independence referendum is fascinating and not a narrow or arid constitutional debate, but influenced by these wider concerns. Revealingly, to most of the London political classes it is seen as marginal, disconnected from their concerns, of episodic interest, and discounted (as they already assess they have won), as noted by Alex Massie in his front cover piece in this week’s ‘Spectator’ (1). Read the rest of this entry »

Unionists, come out and declare your ‘nationalism’

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, August 10th 2013

The story is familiar: there is a pesky, partisan, immature nationalism out and about influencing our body politic.

This is the account of Scottish nationalism put forward by a range of commentators and public figures. Yet it could as easily be articulated about the ideas of unionism because unionism is at its heart a form of nationalism – British state nationalism.

Scottish nationalism has its faults and limitations. It is cautious, conservative and shaped by the characteristics of the society from which it was born. It is also a nationalism, but at least it understands itself as such and is seen as such a phenomenon by everyone.

Unionism doesn’t comprehend that it is a nationalism. It is an obvious point when you think about it. What state does unionism declare its allegiance and loyalty to above all else? The British state. Yet unionism is in denial that it is such a thing as nationalism; it thinks nationalism is about others and not about itself. Read the rest of this entry »

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 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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