This is an important contribution from Gerry Hassan marking the launch of his new book ‘Caledonia Dreaming’. This touches on the themes addressed in the essay ‘Altered State’ and more recently picked up by Kate Higgins (‘Let’s hear it for the changemakers‘) Is this a Scottish form of creative collapsonomics?
“In the past few months the polls for the Scottish independence referendum have narrowed markedly and what was previously seen by many as a mere formality has become a real competitive contest.
Such a swift transformation has left most of the British political classes and media struggling to catch up with events. But it has also left large parts of pro-union Scotland feeling bewildered and disoriented at the pace of change.
Scotland has unambiguously become another country. This has been a very gradual, quiet revolution, one without obvious leaders, or simple causes, and one which has happened over decades.
Scotland’s gathering sense of itself has become interwoven with its changing society. It is a less deferential, ordered, high-bound place. It has become less institutionally dominated and elite-driven, as well as less Protestant, male-dominated and Labour-run.
Traditional authority and key reference points have faced seismic crisis. In the past couple of years, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the fifth largest banking group in the world pre-crash, hit the buffers; Glasgow Rangers FC, Scotland’s dominant and most successful club blew up, faced liquidation and is now working its way up through the lower leagues; while the Catholic church in Scotland has been mired in sexual scandals at its most senior levels.
A longer timeframe captures even more profound institutional crisis. The Church of Scotland is but a pale imitation of the once powerful force that ruled the land. It could, on existing trends, disappear in a generation. Similarly, the Labour party, which once held nearly as much unchecked power as the Kirk, has become a sad, sullen voice. At this crucial juncture, it seems bereft of ideas and resources, only sure in its detesting of Alex Salmond and Scottish nationalism.
Then there is the role of institutions such as the BBC, which has found itself for the past 30 years continually behind the curve of the Scottish self-government debate and even the explosion of arts and culture. Not surprisingly, the BBC along with most of Scotland’s mainstream media is not having a good referendum.
This is a Scottish expression of trends which are evident across the western world: the decline of deference, the rise of individualism, the crisis of traditional authority, and an emergence of new ways of organising and doing culture and politics.
One result of this has been the emergence of a self-organising, self-determining Scotland. I have called this “the third Scotland” by dint of it differentiating from the two establishment visions of Scotland – the new SNP one and the old declining Labour version. It has rightly regarded such a restricted choice and debate as barely adequate in a diverse, complex, wealthy society.
The third Scotland can be seen as a generational shift, with the emergence of a whole swath of articulate, passionate, thoughtful 20somethings. It signifies a shift in how authority and power is interpreted, with people self-starting initiatives, campaigns and projects through social media and crowdfunding.”