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Posts Tagged ‘The British State’

The Art of Living Together and the Art of Dying

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, January 22nd 2014

Sometimes it takes outside voices to reinforce what you already know. So it was with Fintan O’Toole and the second in the series of Glasgow School of Art-University of the West of Scotland ‘Cultures of Independence’ seminars.

O’Toole is author of the acclaimed books, ‘Ship of Fools’ and ‘Enough is Enough’ (1), both wonderful and powerful counter blasts to the baloney and bubble of the Celtic Tiger and its excesses.

He is of no doubt that Scotland is at a hugely important point in its history and that this isn’t just a narrow conversation and debate about constitutions, political and legal processes, and flags north of the border. Instead, this is a debate with huge consequences for England, for the rest of the UK, and with even global ramifications. This has come at a point where the first two are in significant flux and uncertainty due to Europe, economic and social change and the leviathan that is labelled ‘globalisation’.

O’Toole believes that Scotland has already been changing in ways which are irreversible and unfathomable to parts of Scotland and to most (if not all) of the London political classes. The old Scotland is dying, and a very different one is emerging; and at the same time, even more uncomprehending to some, the old England and Britain is disappearing, the loss and bewilderment from which can be witnessed regularly in the columns and letters pages of the ‘Daily Telegraph’ and the rise of Ukip. Read the rest of this entry »

Where is the United Kingdom going in relation to Europe and the world?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, December 21st 2013

The United Kingdom is on the move. Firstly, in how it sees itself in relation to Europe, and secondly, in how it understands and places itself in the world.

Take Europe. There is now a rising Euro-scepticism which is very different and more thoughtful, compared to ‘the swivel-eyed loons’ of Tory leadership nightmares, or the retired Colonel Blimp image of Ukip’s unqualified anti-Europeanism.

This more nuanced Euro-scepticism is seen in the ‘Fresh Start’ group of Tory parliamentarians, chaired by Andrea Leadsom, and in the likes of Douglas Carswell, MP and Daniel Hannan, MEP.

Just over a week ago a milestone event took place in London under the auspices of the think tank, ‘Open Europe’. This involved wargaming the scenarios of possible UK detachment and withdrawal from the European Union. Read the rest of this entry »

History in the Making: The Battle for Scotland’s Future

Gerry Hassan

National Collective, November 20th 2013

The campaign on Scottish independence has reached new levels – a battle of competing specialist documents – firstly, there has been an Institute for Fiscal Studies report, matched by a Scottish Government paper on the economic independence, and next week the much anticipated White Paper on Scottish independence.

The latter is a milestone in the pro-independence debate. Whatever its content, style and persuasiveness things will never quite be the same again. A devolved administration in part of the UK lays out the case for independence and for formally ending the 300 year old union which has bound Scotland and England together.

Yet beneath these is a contest between two competing technocratic versions of the world, shaped by faith in conventional economic growth models which are globally growing more threadbare and discredited by the day. This is the rationalist mindset, illustrating by the actions of both campaigns the limits of such an approach and politics.

Then there is the mainstream media. The IFS report was greeted by what can only be called near-hysteria by some of the pro-union newspapers. The Scottish edition of ‘the Daily Mail’ shouted ‘BLACK HOLE: Report exposes SNP economic gap: They’ll have to raise income tax or slash spending’ on its front page; the ‘Daily Telegraph’ that ‘Separation would deal £6bn blow, impartial study finds’. We have had two and a half years of this one-sided Pathe News style propaganda and clearly it is only going in one direction: towards a date with Armageddon on September 18th 2014. Read the rest of this entry »

What is the point of Scotland’s Westminster Politicians?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, November 2nd 2013

Once upon a time Scottish politics meant one of two things: what your local council got up too, and Scottish MPs standing on College Green talking on BBC and STV about what often seemed far-flung issues.

The latter were our only articulation of national party politics. And while it now seems a long time ago it did produce a sort of effective politics and a range of ‘Big Beasts’ – from Tom Johnston and Willie Ross to George Younger, Malcolm Rifkind and Gordon Brown, to name but a few.

This was the age of what was called in polite circles, ‘the Scottish lobby’, but which also went privately by the names, ‘Scottish’ or ‘tartan mafia’. The romantic version of this is the folklore of ‘Red Clydeside’ and the 1922 general election when the city of Glasgow saw ten of its fifteen constituencies return Labour MPs for the first time. Upon their departure from St. Enoch railway station with crowds singing the ‘Red Flag’ they went south to change the Commons, but in the eyes of left-wing critics were more changed by parliament themselves. Read the rest of this entry »

The UK is not skint – it is a playground for the rich and privileged

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, September 21st 2013

It has been Scotland’s week in the news with British and world media flocking north to cover the story of one year to the referendum.

Such coverage paints a particular Scottish story by necessity and tends to leave the wider picture of what has changed and what needs to change at a British level.

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland is a strange land; not technically a nation but a state. It is a unique hybrid, neither the unitary country often cited, but far removed from confederation or federalism.

It is a country which invokes the past but has a very shaky grasp of its own history: 1,000 years of lineage often being referenced by its mostly English politicians (and the occasional Scots and Welsh one). Its character and date of formation are obscure, held together by a series of unions and landmark changes: 1603, 1707, 1801, and its current borders dating from as recently as 1921 (when Ireland secessed). 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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