Well it’s over now. 2016 has been the year that sucked more than a Dyson on steroids, was more mince than the meat counter at Morrisons, and made less sense than Wullie Rennie’s claim at the Scottish Lib Dem conference in November that it was his party which had actually won the year’s Holyrood elections even though his party ended up with fewer seats than there are in yer maw’s front room. There’s only a couple of weeks to go now before we get to 2017 so at least we’ve survived the year. Whether we survive 2017 with the Donald as prez is a moot point.
The year was marked with a series of unexpected celebrity deaths. One after another they passed away, almost as though they couldn’t bear to live in the worsening world that they were leaving behind. And the ones we were losing were not even the sort of celebrities who appear on Strictly or anything presented by Ant and Dec.
It was people who actually had talent and whom you were able to recognise. People that not only had you heard of, but your maw had heard of too. We lost David Bowie, Prince, Lemmy, Victoria Wood, Caroline Aherne, Leonard Cohen, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Terry Wogan, Muhammad Ali, Ronnie Corbett, and more, and not to be left out Paul Daniels and Pete Burns too. It’s a sign of just how cruel 2016 was that it saw the demise of so many great and much missed talents, yet Noel Edmonds, Phil Collins, Ant and Dec, and Bono are still going strong.
It was a year for royalists. Except for viewers in Scotland, who were distinctly unimpressed with Nicholas Witchell’s attempts to stir up enthusiasm for the fact that Liz is now the longest reigning monarch in British history. There were the usual royal events. Prince Edward appeared as he usually does in a uniform bedecked with medals. That month he spent in the Royal Marines back in the 1980s must have been pretty eventful. Scotland responded to calls for street parties throughout the land to celebrate the fact that we have the world’s most highly paid benefits claimants with the #ScottishStreetParty hashtag on Twitter. Someone posted a photo of an abandoned mattress saying “Dalmarnock has got the bouncy castle ready.” And as record numbers of disabled people were subject to intrusive and degrading examinations, as record numbers of claimants were sanctioned forcing them to foodbanks and increasing their risk of homelessness, the Queen got a pay rise. The richest woman in the country gets an additional top up of over £46 million a year from the state. Doesn’t it make you proud to be British.
Early on in the year the prospect of a second Scottish independence referendum was dim and distant. It seemed that it was going to take many slow slogging years in order to build a case for another referendum. Even though the Unionist parties had treated the infamous Vow of 2014 in much the same way that Katie Hopkins treats a plea from a migrants’ rights organisation to speak of refugees with respect, it was still going to take a long time to make the political case for a second referendum.
The Holyrood elections in May were presented as a blow for Nicola Sturgeon and Unionist commentators crowed that the results made independence a lot less likely. The SNP lost its overall majority but the Greens increased their representation. Labour was decimated and the Tories became the second largest party by dint of the fact that Labour’s vote collapsed. This was presented as a great victory for Ruth Davidson who was hailed in the Unionist media as being the real winner of the election, even though her party came a very distant second. What the same Unionist media was less likely to highlight was the fact that there is now a slightly increased majority of pro-independence parties in the Parliament. So much for a victory for Unionism.
Then the next month there was the political earthquake of Brexit. Scotland voted to remain a part of the European Union by a considerably larger majority than it had voted to remain a part of the UK, but because the rest of the UK voted to leave, Scotland now faces being ripped out of Europe against it will. In the wake of the narrow leave vote, while the Tories were leaderless and rudderless, while there was no plan, no planning, no routemap for what to do next, the Parliamentary Labour party decided that this was the ideal time to mount a coup against Jeremy Corbyn.
The Tories quickly got their act together, and morphed into UKIP. There would be no concessions to the 48% who voted remain, no concessions to Scotland, but plenty of concessions to the City of London and Japanese car manufacturers. Boris Johnson became Foreign Secretary, and immediately set off on a foreign visit in an attempt to find a country which he hasn’t insulted. The Tory conference was a shameful exercise in the xenophobia and bigotry that the UK now stands for. No longer can Unionists claim that Scottish independence is narrow minded insular nationalism, that’s the UK’s unique selling point now.
Unionist commentators claimed that Brexit made Scottish independence a lot less likely. But then they said the same thing about a BOGOF offer at Tesco. The reality is that it’s made a second independence referendum a racing certainty. What Brexit taught us is that the broad shoulders of the UK have no head on them.
It turned out that Brexit was just the foreshock, the real earthquake came in November when Donald Trump won the US elections. The USA’s first black president will be replaced by its first orange one. An unstable and unpredictable narcissistic conspiracy theorist who spent the campaign insulting Mexicans, Muslims, disabled people, women, transsexuals, climate change scientists and China, is now the world’s most powerful man.
As we go into 2017 the world is more uncertain than it has ever been. But it is more certain than ever that Scotland will be in for a second independence referendum and we’re going into that campaign with the support of half the population and a weakened and morally bankrupt Unionist establishment. What the traumas and upsets of 2016 have taught us is that independence is coming. And it’s coming soon.