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Posts Tagged ‘Sunday National’

A Time for Big Ideas for Scotland

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, February 16th 2020

Big ideas are important. Boris Johnson is talking about infrastructure projects, committing to HS2 and spending £106 billion of taxpayers’ monies. He also this week announced a review into the feasibility of a 20-mile long Scotland-Northern Ireland bridge that will cost £20 billion.

Irrespective of the merits of these projects, and the obvious point that the Scottish-Northern Irish bridge has next to no chance of ever being built, they mark a different kind of politics at least rhetorically from that of Boris Johnson’s immediate Tory predecessors.

These announcements raise big questions about the role of government, public spending and what is deliverable, feasible and believable. One strand which many on the left will understandably want to resist is that Johnson’s government is embarking on an era of raising selective public spending, a more interventionist state and greater role for government, amounting to a different kind of Conservatism compared to recent decades.

This brings up challenges for Scotland. What do we want to be defined by? What do we want to collectively organise and mobilise to do? What do we want to do which brings lasting change and directly transforms lives – beyond the constitutional question and independence? Read the rest of this entry »

What holds Scotland back? Our relationship with England and ourselves

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, February 9th 2020

Scotland has travelled far in recent decades. The country is more autonomous, confident, self-governing and secure in having multiple identities. This is what we often tell ourselves and there is truth in it. Yet it is also true that after 20 years of the Scottish Parliament we still have many areas in which to progress, and numerous barriers that hold us back and limit the lives of too many.

Much of what restricts us can be directly linked to structural issues and hard power – economic, social, and political. But there are also cultural and psychological dimensions – and all of these can be seen in our relationship with England and its impact on Scotland, and the wider state of our society.

Take the relationship with England. Scotland is 8.4% of the UK population, England 84%. We are one-third the land mass and even more in maritime waters. The population balance means that political power in UK elections does not often sit here but in England. Read the rest of this entry »

Scotland after Brexit: What needs to happen to win independence?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, February 2nd 2020

Leadership isn’t easy. It can be lonely and difficult. But it is not without rewards when you get it right. Nicola Sturgeon said on Friday: ‘leadership is not about giving people easy answers … It is about being honest with people.’

In the aftermath of Sturgeon’s announcement hours before Scotland was dragged out of the EU against our democratic wishes – many felt a plethora of different emotions about Scotland’s future, independence, and the role of the Scottish Government and SNP.

Some felt bitterly let down. They felt the road to 2020 was entirely of the First Minister’s making and that she has cumulatively boxed herself in. Others note that Sturgeon is doing what she has been doing since 2014 and even more so since the 2016 Brexit vote – playing a long-term game of cautious, gradual steps.

The bigger picture is the assault on Scottish democracy that Brexit is. This is the poll tax with bells on. Scotland never forgot the Tories for that episode and being branded ‘guinea pigs’. Today people will never forget what the Tories have done and the Brexit they have imposed – along with the refusal of Scottish Labour and Lib Dem politicians to act against this. Read the rest of this entry »

Rise Now and Be a Nation Again: Can a genuine English democratic politics emerge?

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, January 26th 2020

England has always mattered to Scotland, and indeed to Wales and Northern Ireland. It has 84% of the UK’s population and 533 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons – which means that as of now how England votes gives the rest of the UK the government England wants, irrespective of how the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish vote.

Yet of late, England as a substitute for the UK has become increasingly evident. This is not just true on the right, but in left and liberal circles, underlying how widespread is this mindset.

In the past month, there have been numerous cases. One example was Andy Beckett writing twice in ‘The Guardian’, one pre and one post-Christmas, supposedly about the state of UK politics, but in both all his references were English and all his analysis was about the state of English politics.

In the last week, the ITV current affairs show ‘Peston’ had a discussion about the qualities Labour members wanted from their next leader, and as a graphic of ‘British patriotism’ the English flag was used, with no one in the studio commenting or offering an explanation. Read the rest of this entry »

Why Boris Johnson cannot say no forever

Gerry Hassan

Sunday National, January 19th 2020

Thirty years ago the Proclaimers sang ‘What do you do when Democracy’s all through? What do you do when minority means you?’

This was the environment in Scotland after Thatcher’s third term victory of 1987. The Proclaimers caught the denial of democracy and sense of powerlessness many felt in the face of that political juggernaut. They also gave voice to the need to name the democratic crisis of the UK as such and its impact on Scotland, while emphasising our collective refusal to acquiesce to it.

Many feel that these sentiments resonate down through the years to the present. They feel that Scotland is trapped and that democracy is being denigrated. All of this raises the questions: what do we do after Boris Johnson has said no? Can he really go on indefinitely saying no? And how should the Scottish Government and wider independence movement respond?

Johnson’s defiant stand follows on from two years of Theresa May saying ‘now is not the time’. The latter was obviously playing for time: a hope that something would somehow turn up which would change events north of the border. 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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