The Christmas season is an odd time.
Particularly since it has become, for many, a ten day holiday, it is approached in anticipation that there will be more than enough time to do everything. Once the immediate frantic activity around the Day itself is out of the way, sleep will be caught up on; literary presents read; old films watched; old friends visited and obligations to relatives discharged. And, in this modern age, the back catalogue of half watched TV series will also be finally retrieved and digested from the Sky Player or equivalent. Alongside a box set or two.
Then there are the things you don’t normally have the time for: a bit of (proper) cooking; the occasional long walk; some serious music listened to; perhaps a “major” novel (or two) re-read, together with the year end magazines and Christmas special Sunday supplements saved up in case you get bored.
And then there’s the Christmas telly to be watched, no longer on a “see it when it’s on or miss it forever” basis; a bit of shopping to be done; all that eating and drinking (home and away); and of course football, even a concert or two, to be attended, not least to have something to do.
Oh and there’s also the New Year to be prepared for. House tidied; black bun ordered in; all the food bought for Christmas and somehow since disappeared replaced in almost equal quantities if slightly different combination.
And then suddenly that box of work you brought home on 23rd December, confident of doing it at some time over the long holiday, is wailing at you from the boot of the car with the ominous chorus that in twelve hours or so you’ll be back in the office and it will remain unattended to (unless it can be accommodated alongside the last four episodes of the box set; the last 100 pages of the Christmas present page turner............. and the New Statesman Christmas special. And that’s already having admitted defeat over the remaining 350 pages of The Charterhouse of Parma.
Ideally therefore a year end political taking stock could be undertaken at a different time. Perhaps early February.
Normally such an exercise involves three obvious elements; a review of the year past; a prediction of the year ahead and an attempt to show at least some continuity at work.
That won’t really work however in the context of current Scottish politics: the year past was exciting; there was an election and that election produced, on any view, a significant long term development in the form of the SNP landslide. It can be concluded with some probability that that result will not be reversed easily; with equal probability that it will not be done until the opposition Parties come to terms with the National question but, most significantly of all, it can be concluded with absolute certainty that there will be no change in the Holyrood administration until May 2016 at the earliest. And May 2016 is a long time away.
So, for those who like excitement in their Scottish politics, I regret to say that the initial assumption about 2012 is that it will be a lot less exciting than 2011. There won’t even be the “excitement” of any internal leadership contests. It will mainly just be grind. There won’t be a Referendum, or even legislation for a Referendum but the Administration will want to do as little as possible to rock the boat, just in case they do ever decide to hold one, so there won’t be any bold policy initiatives either.
There will be a continued bit of background noise over the legalities of an advisory referendum and a bit of unequal sniping between Salmond and Michael Moore over the Scotland Bill but, even if the Bill passes it wont come into force immediately; indeed if the SNP are to be believed it won’t ever come into force because, before it does, Scotland will be independent, which rather makes you wonder why they are so concerned as to what is in it.
There will of course be local government elections (snore) but the long term significance of these will, I predict, prove to be much less significant than anticipated. The results will simply confirm that the Nationalists currently have the big mo and the opposition are in disarray. Even if Labour holds on to Glasgow, which, incidentally, I think we will, it will be difficult to spin as a real tide turning event that we are still in power where we’ve been in power all of my adult life.
And that’s about it.
If I was writing a 2012 year end review now, and domestic Scottish politics were all that mattered, I suspect I could now invest in the opening line “Scottish politics in December 2012 look much like they did in December 2011.”
But of course, domestic Scottish politics are not all that matters.
It is tempting to think that after the debacle of the Brussels summit, nothing will detach the Libs from the coalition but I’m not convinced. Europe does, I think, matter to them and there will be big choices to be made over Europe in the coming year. I think almost all British politicians misunderstand the strategic commitment to the European idea in the core countries in particular. I think they will all be astonished at the economic pain Italy will be prepared to go through to stay in the Euro. Don’t be fooled by the size of the demonstrations, Italians like that sort of thing, look instead at the approval ratings for Monti and Napolitano.
And the response to crisis in Europe has not been a move towards the looser Union of Tory back-bench fantasy but rather the ever closer union anticipated by the Community’s founders. Along that path there will be any number of forks but there will inevitably be a point when the Libs can no longer simply get huffy over the road not taken. Possibly sooner rather than later.
And since Scotland is (still) part of Britain, perhaps the political year here will prove as exciting as 2011 after all.
Anyway, that’s all, I suspect, from me this year. If it is then I trust that the economic outlook for 2012 will prove to be not as bleak as it currently appears and that my happy band of followers enjoy a peaceful and happy New Year.
I’m off to watch five catch up episodes of Romanzo Criminale and then, if I can find a torch, to go for a long walk.