I was born just a few months after this country joined the European Community, and in the 45 years since then Europe has proved itself as a protector of human rights, the planet’s most progressive global voice on climate change, and the most successful peace project in history. It has created a future in which young people are no longer sent to other European countries to kill one another, but can choose for themselves where they want to travel, learn, work and live.
It used to be said that politicians complaining about the press was like sailors complaining about the sea. These days the same might be said of social media; many people in political life have very serious criticisms not only of the way social media changes behaviour, permits abuse and trolling, and proliferates disinformation, but also of the basic business model.
When the fifth session of the Scottish Parliament was officially opened in 2016, the Scottish Youth Theatre performed a flash mob recital of the Edwin Morgan poem, “Open the Doors!”. Perhaps its best known lines are about what Scots aspire for in their parliamentarians: “A nest of fearties is what they do not want. A symposium of procrastinators is what they do not want. A phalanx of forelock-tuggers is what they do not want. And perhaps above all the droopy mantra of 'it wizny me' is what they do not want.”
“If the world follows the lead of Scotland and makes its claim with these long-term targets and the rallying of business and civic and political leaders, then it's clear which direction we're going.” These are the words of former US vice president Al Gore, whose sobering documentary An Inconvenient Truth laid bare the harsh realities of our changing climate and the impacts on the planet if we don’t take urgent action.
The polarisation of Scotland’s politics is often frustrating. Some people blame the independence movement for that, but I often notice that some of the people who portray the cause of independence as divisive are the same ones who stubbornly refuse to see beyond that dividing line. The recent antics of Labour, Conservatives and the LibDems passing up every chance for proper engagement in the budget process was a case in point.
In the early days of devolution there was excitement about Scotland being able to get to work on issues which had been sidelined or ignored by successive UK Governments. Transport was one area where new energy and momentum were sorely needed.
Most days, MSPs reply to quite a number of letters and emails from our constituents. Sometimes the reply can offer some practical help, and at other times that’s just not possible. Sometimes the correspondence is about a fundamental difference of political opinion, and of course people have a right to question their representatives about such issues.
Frank Sinatra told us that it’s the city that doesn’t sleep, and this week New York’s Mayor Bill de Blasio proved that he’s not lying down on the job when it comes to the world’s greatest environmental challenge either.
It will be a happier new year than expected for some of the people working through the chilly night forecast on the 31st. Edinburgh’s annual Hogmanay celebration is one of the events that gives Scotland’s capital a global prominence, with visitors and locals joining together to see in the new year. But after budget cuts from the local council, the commercial organisers of the event decided to recruit volunteers to take on what had previously been paid roles, as ‘Hogmanay Ambassadors’.