Brian Monteith: Will 2014 transport us down a different track?

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So, another Christmas has come and gone and now we turn to the New Year. Looking back over our shoulders this current one fades from memory leaving only those things we cherish and wish to retain – or must learn from and thus dare not forget.

Yet again for Hibs supporters it was a moment of extreme highs and lows; who can forget that Cup semi-final comeback only to be disappointed at a final once again.

At least I did not travel half way round the world to witness the come-down this time – or have as long a journey home again. For Hearts, the boil of indebtedness that had grown over the club, consuming it like a putrid abscess, finally burst – but having been cleansed of the poison real supporters can shape the club’s fortunes.

In Edinburgh, this coming year is the year of the tram. There have been times when it seemed like they would never appear, it even seemed that Hibs might win that cup before the trams would be completed. Mad, bad and sad though the trams debacle has been, the Hibs hoodoo has proven bigger – for now.

I can safely predict that after a few weeks of the trams in operation people will be saying how pleasant they are, how clean and comfortable, how much nicer than buses etcetera, etcetera. I could write the public relations puff now. It will be mostly empty rhetoric, unfortunately.

For it will only be a minority giving these gushing plaudits as there is only one route that will serve only a small fraction of the Edinburgh public, while the rest of us wonder why it all cost so much for such a limited operation that did not in the end 
go down Leith Walk and on to Newhaven.

There will be calls for new 
extensions to the line (it does not 
yet merit being called a system) 
and such pleas will have a point – 
for the rest of Edinburgh’s public 
will be subsidising a service it is unlikely to access – and if it is to be of universal benefit then trams must connect those areas that are currently ignored.

But would we wish such trauma on more small businesses, would we want to put the council in yet more debt and is there a government now prepared to underwrite the majority of such a scheme?

Of course 2014 provides Alex Salmond and his followers with their day of destiny, one that he never really wanted but allowed his mouth to talk himself into during an errant radio interview in 2011.

He never expected to achieve the overall majority that ensured he could and should deliver the referendum on independence that he had brazenly promised.

Why, only a few months before he was not certain of even winning, but win he did and in September next year he can show if he is able to secure victory by coming from behind again.

I remain convinced that the No campaign will triumph, but I am also alive to how the prospects for the Yes campaign may yet change for the better, although the expensive launch of the voluminous White Paper and the forthcoming Radio Salmond Roadshows is not the way I would have recommended.

Our eyes will be distracted for a week, or maybe two, when the summer’s elections for the European 
Parliament will become a prime 
focus of the media as UKIP 
leader Nigel Farage attempts to go one better than 2009 by moving from second to first place in number of MEPs won.

The repercussions of the Conservatives doing badly and Labour not recovering sufficiently from its appalling third place may have their own impact on the Scottish referendum – not least if Scotland elects its own UKIP member (not impossible) or removes its only Tory MEP (always possible).

It may just give the Yes campaign the kickstart it keeps waiting on or simply prove Scotland’s not that different from the rest of the UK after all. We shall see.

It has been an especially bad year for the BBC, not just for the scandals that continue to break around its poor governance, but in its journalistic judgment.

The Corporation’s lavish praise of the late Nelson Mandela was beyond parody.

Was Mandela a great man? The answer is yes, but it required a sharper critical analysis than that provided by the BBC to prove it. Where was mention of the collapse of the Soviet Empire and the end of the Cold War that provided the context for Mandela embracing peace?

Where was the analysis of his record as president and any real debate about his legacy, rather than the easy acceptance of soft-focus platitudes?

Why did BBC commentators not ask why Mandela turned out so different from Mugabe – and yet the former would not condemn the latter? And why fly hundreds of people out for the programmes when others got by with a handful?

Whatever the year some things never alter; the lavish detachment of BBC management is as predictable as a trams delay or a Hibs cup defeat. Will 2014 ring any changes?