Gerry Hassan's Praise of Donald Dewar Is Fanfiction
by Greum Maol Stevenson
Being dead makes people like you better.
In this article, Gerry Hassan eulogises Donald Dewar, Scotland's first First Minister, who died 20 years ago. Hassan's admiration for Dewar seems to be based on how bourgeois he was:
“Donald Dewar was a profoundly decent person, imbued with an older sense of public mission and morality, who often seemed out of kilter with the times – drawing from a deep reservoir of how the middle and professional classes used to behave. His death robbed the Scottish Parliament of leadership and aided a period of institutional instability, but even more began a series of steps that led to Scottish Labour’s long descent into near-irrelevance.”
Hassan is right about one thing: “Dewar as First Minister was no natural leader, but his death removed a politician who could speak to the Scotland beyond Labour.” He appealed to the right wing as much as to the left, because he was an establishment shill who, either through ignorance or dishonesty, played down the hardships so many people living in Glasgow endured.
In 1990, Dewar appeared on the STV show Scottish Books to discuss Alan Spence's novel The Magic Flute. Dewar complained about Spence's description of Glasgwegians in the 1960s living in slum flats without bathrooms, or even hot water on tap. He declared that no one in Glasgow was living in such conditions by then.
If Dewar, a doctor's son and a lawyer who became a millionaire, had bothered to visit Maryhill in the 1970s, he would have known that not only was Spence's description correct, it was still that way a decade later. In Raeberry Street and Mount Street, to name only two, people washed at the kitchen sink, with water boiled in a pot, and, if you were lucky, you had a toilet (just a toilet) in your flat, instead of a cludgie outside that you shared with neighbours, and that is how it was until 1978, when the buildings, which were also infested with rats, were demolished.
It's hard to believe Donald Dewar was unaware of this. Perhaps he was too busy counting his millions to notice.