The rise and fall of civil society in Scotland
The rise and fall of civil society in Scotland Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, August 12th 2020 Last year in the US in the town of Williamstown, Massachusetts I got into a conversation with a complete stranger who followed politics avidly. I naturally asked him about the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, to which he responded that even more important than defeating Trump was the vibrancy and health of civil society. It struck me as a perceptive remark in seeing past the debris of the Trump Presidency and looking at something deeper, more long-term and centred on the health of
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The march of centralisation is evident in Scotland and must be stopped
The march of centralisation is evident in Scotland and must be stopped Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, June 3rd 2020 The entire coronavirus pandemic has been shaped by the incompetence of Boris Johnson and the UK Government. At nearly every stage they have seemed almost wilfully too slow to act, learn or admit mistakes. One underlying problem has been the degree to which the UK Government has acted centralising English decisions. It has been unwilling to encourage or support localism, decentralism and civic leadership across the country. Instead, it has advanced a one size fits all approach for England, bypassing
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Time to consider recall for MSPs in Scotland
Time to consider recall for MSPs in Scotland Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, February 19th 2020 Scotland likes to see itself as a modern parliamentary democracy with a new Parliament elected by proportional representation, a circular chamber that reflects its intended way of working, and a committee system designed to hold power to account. This is very much the view of official Scotland and of much of our political classes. It was the view of Labour and Lib Dems when they governed Scotland and it is the view of the incumbent SNP now. But in at least one critical respect there
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A Time for Big Ideas for Scotland
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.
An Example of the Good Public Life for All of Us: Nigel Smith
An Example of the Good Public Life for All of Us: Nigel Smith Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, January 22nd 2020 Nigel Smith who died unexpectedly at his home in Campsie Glen in East Dunbartonshire last week at the age of 78 was never a household name. Many reading this will never have heard of him, but he was an important figure in the public life of Scotland and the UK over the past 25 years. In his working life, Nigel was a businessman, running his own engineering company in Glasgow’s Springburn for just under 30 years. More than this, he
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Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘obsession’ with staying in office and life after Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘obsession’ with staying in office and life after Sturgeon Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, August 28th 2019 In the past week Nicola Sturgeon made a couple of important statements about politics and power in Scotland. Speaking with the political comedian Matt Forde at Edinburgh Festival Fringe, Sturgeon was revealing in a way she seldom is, and not perhaps in the way she intended to be. Firstly, Sturgeon said she was ‘obsessed’ with keeping the SNP in office and not ending up in an ‘existential crisis’ like Scottish Labour. Secondly, she said that the decline of Labour in Scotland and
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The Scottish Parliament at 20: Are we really ‘Children of the Devolution’?
The Scottish Parliament at 20: Are we really ‘Children of the Devolution’? Gerry Hassan Bella Caledonia, July 1st 2019 It was twenty years ago today that the Scottish Parliament officially opened. Donald Dewar spoke eloquently, the Queen attended, and there was a small amount of pomp and circumstance in Edinburgh Old Town. Time for reflection and an assessment - cue Allan Little’s ‘Children of the Devolution’ shown on the new BBC Scotland channel, and subsequently BBC Scotland (the last episode shown this Tuesday on the former, and Wednesday on the latter). This offers an appraisal of the past twenty years:
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The coming of age of the Scottish Parliament … but has power shifted to the people?
The coming of age of the Scottish Parliament … but has power shifted to the people? Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, May 8th 2019 Twenty years ago last Monday Scotland went to the polls in the first democratic elections to the Scottish Parliament. This coming Sunday marks the anniversary of the first session of that Parliament which Winnie Ewing famously opened with the words: ‘The Scottish Parliament, which adjourned on March 25th 1707, is hereby reconvened.’ The new Parliament was elected with much goodwill, hope and energy, following the decisive 1997 devolution referendum. Polls showed that large majorities expected the Parliament
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It was twenty years ago: Scotland, our Parliament and the limits of Devolution
It was twenty years ago: Scotland, our Parliament and the limits of Devolution Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, November 14th 2018 Twenty years ago Scotland began the devolution era when the Scotland Act 1998, which established the framework for the Scottish Parliament, achieved Royal Assent on 19 November 1998 – the final parliamentary debate having taken place two days before in the House of Lords. Much has happened in the intervening twenty years. The Scottish Parliament was set up with a Scottish Executive, which morphed into the Scottish Government. Donald Dewar became the first of five First Ministers, and died tragically
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Are a ‘liberal elite’ really running Scotland?
Are a ‘liberal elite’ really running Scotland? Gerry Hassan Scottish Review, December 6th 2017 Is Scotland run by a ‘liberal junta’ or a ‘social junta’? This might seem a far-fetched notion but this is the charge made by Observer and Herald columnist Kevin McKenna (‘social junta’) and backed up by Iain Macwhirter (‘liberal junta’). I have enormous respect for both Kevin and Iain and value their many contributions to public life, but do think that on this they have got it badly wrong. The argument put by McKenna in The Observer is that the Scottish Parliament is more focused on
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