Brian Monteith: Referendum makes it Darling’s year

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And so another year ­becomes but a memory – but what a year!

Okay, let’s get the important stuff out of the way first. No, not the independence ­referendum that became historic not for changing Scotland’s status as a nation but for confirming our place in the United Kingdom – no, the year that not just Hearts but Hibs too were relegated from the Scottish Premier League.

At least Hearts put up a brave fight, bearing in mind that the team carried a (deserved) points penalty deduction and appeared doomed from the start. Hibs had no excuses and were truly woeful. Who would have thought?

Well most Hibs supporters I know had seen the trend towards relegation – a poor team getting worse over consecutive seasons disguised by good cup runs that were on each occasion exposed for their hollowness. The problem is clear, the club has been losing its soul – which makes playing with passion for the club at a ­consistently high level near impossible. And if you don’t have the necessary strength, skills and teamwork you must at least have passion.

If you don’t recruit or grow enough players with green blood then finding that passion is improbable – enough Hearts players had maroon blood or had a blood transfusion, and it showed.

The soul of any club runs from the top through to the bottom and back again. Without change at the highest level that soul cannot be invented or imposed – so it takes a unique person to craft, protect and drive a winning team. Maybe Alan Stubbs is that unusual man – he has certainly finished the year on a high note – putting smiles on the face of nearly everyone in Edinburgh (including Hearts and Celtic supporters) and helped make tomorrow’s first derby of 2015 a fixture of great anticipation.

Here’s to next year bringing an SPL Edinburgh Derby.

But now to the politics. Whose year in the end was it? Alex Salmond’s? Nope! A leader who has to resign in recognition of spending two years campaigning and a lifetime scheming for something that the electorate ­convincingly rejected cannot receive that accolade.

It is on Salmond’s shoulders that the independence defeat must rest, for it was he who led the nationalist coalition with a currency proposal that was 50p short of a pound, it was he who invented legal advice on EU membership that was later admitted to not exist – and it was he who said we could have milk and honey based on inflated oil wealth that has since been shown to be worth half its value.

We were repeatedly told Salmond was the oil expert that no one could better, that his expectations built upon an oil price of $113 a barrel could not be challenged or doubted – only to find that oil now languishes at $58 a barrel and may yet fall further. An oil fund anyone? The Saudis produce it for only $6 a barrel and have said they could live with $20 a barrel; go figure.

But if not Salmond who else? Nicola Sturgeon? Nope! Although she is the newly anointed one she signed up for all of Alex Salmond’s bluster and is his protege. 2015 may yet be her year if she can craft her own successes, but simply being next in line of a losing team does not cut it for me.

Johann Lamont and Willie ­Rennie are not even in the frame, and although Ruth Davidson visibly matured in the referendum campaign she has yet to deliver the goods.

Jim Murphy? Becoming Scottish Labour leader is a result of sorts, and there were many that believe that was precisely what Jim Murphy was angling for 
throughout the referendum campaign, but it is still only half a victory.

Until Murphy actually turns Labour’s electoral fortunes around at Holyrood he cannot yet win the Lucky Bag. Nor can I give the prize to David Cameron, who at least had the comfort of being on the winning side. Although making some of the best speeches defending the Union the Edinburgh Agreement was his mistake and he is, after all, a 
British rather than Scottish politician. Ed Miliband? Nick Clegg? Let’s not even go there.

Gordon Brown? He certainly made an impact in the last week but suggestions that he won it are a gross 
exaggeration.

Brown was too much of a loose canon throughout the campaign to be the team player who deserves the Crackerjack Pen.

No, the politician of the year was none of the above. It was quite simply, and obviously Alistair Darling.

It was Darling who stood on the burning deck when so many were ­losing their nerve. I have my own ­criticisms of the No campaign but Darling convinced the Scottish public that the Yes campaign argument was flawed.

He won that first debate by such a big margin that losing the second (in circumstances disreputable to the BBC) that it did not matter. Salmond was always playing catch-up after Darling skelped him.

And so enjoy your coming 
political retirement Alistair. 2014 was your year.

You led the campaign that saved the Union and will always be remembered for it. Maybe you could swap notes with Alan Stubbs?