After Devolution: How Do We Change Scotland?

Gerry Hassan

The Scotsman, March 8th 2011

The last decade of Scotland has shown the limits of devolution and the power of the forces of caution and conservatism – despite our belief that we are radicals, rebels and challengers of orthodoxy.

There were several accounts of devolution, but the dominant, prevailing one was not about transforming Scottish society or a supposed ‘new politics’. Instead, it was about legitimising the existing vested interests and forces of institutional Scotland.

There have been many positives in the last decade: the effortless establishment of the Parliament, its widespread acceptance, and many changes in society which make us a more liberal, tolerant nation.

Yet the lack of policy ideas, lack of spaces and lack of challenging, divergent voices outside of institutional Scotland is not an accident. There is a closed cycle of consultation where interest groups talk to other insider groups. The biggest respondent in the last decade to Scottish Government consultations is – surprise surprise – the Scottish Government; literally the system talking to itself!

While our professional classes seem to be omnipotent there is also a palpable feeling of exhaustion and disillusion in these groups. They know the cupboard is bare policy and idea wise, and that they have not exactly delivered the bright, hopeful Scotland they promised would come about.

What are we meant to believe in after social democracy’s humiliation by New Labour and across the globe? What are we meant to trust in after free market zealotry and the masters of the universe turned out to be yet another hollow sham?

Radical Scotland: Arguments for Self-Determination brings together a range of voices looking at how Scotland can change – most Scottish based and some international thinkers and practitioners.

What unites them is an impatience and disappointment at the limits of devolution and belief that we can do better and do it fundamentally differently. The book offers not just critique – but an alternative.

It maps out how we can move from the fixation on self-government – politically – to the wider notion of self-determination – as a society. This is about a vision of Scotland and change which isn’t narrowly about politics, politicians or the Parliament – but diffusing and redistributing power across Scotland – to individuals, communities and wider society.

This is about more than the next stage of devolution; it is the end of devolution as we have known it. And the beginning of a new phase of change in Scotland.

Gerry Hassan and Rosie Ilett (eds), Radical Scotland: Arguments for Self-Determination is published this week by Luath Press, £12.99.