The Scottish National Party (SNP) burst onto the British political scene in the early 1970s campaigning under the punchy separatist slogan of “It’s Scotland’s Oil” — a reference to the vast reservoirs of oil and gas recently discovered beneath the North Sea waters around Aberdeenshire.

But five decades on, faced with an accelerating climate crisis, a prolonged slump in global oil prices, and widespread redundancies in the carbon sector, Scotland’s nationalist movement is beginning to reassess its historic relationship with fossil fuels. 

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From the “rotten boroughs” of the early nineteenth century to the “Cash for Honours” scandal of the 2000s, patronage, nepotism, and grift have always been part of British political culture. But in recent years, the problem of corruption in UK public life seems to have intensified — or, at least, become more visible.

According to journalist Peter Geoghegan, in his best-selling new book, Democracy for Sale, this shift reflects the growing “Americanization” of British politics. Anonymous donors hold sway over the major parties, the Conservatives in particular; dark money has pushed radical fringe agendas into mainstream debate; lies and disinformation are now common currency among Westminster legislators.

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