There is an old tradition in Scotland that on Hogmanay as the Bells ring, we open a door or window to let the old year out and the new one in. Scotland’s New Year isn’t what it was.
Hogmanay has become an excuse for ludicrous “festivals” and concerts by has-beens rather than a midnight moment of solemnity followed by fabulous house parties that allowed families and friends to cement their relationships, even if that meant listening to granny singing The Wee Cock Sparra while under the influence of her annual dram.
The old traditions are still observed in many homes, however, and it is testament to our native culture’s longevity that in households across Scotland there will be a last tidying up, whisky and shortbread will be produced, doors and windows will be opened, then first foots and party-goers will assemble to see in the New Year.
It’s a time for looking back, but New Year for me has always been a time to look forward, even if as Robert Burns wrote, “I guess and fear” about the future. This has been an extraordinary year for Scotland. The election of a majority SNP government in May means that this country has changed forever. Certain people – media and business bosses, mostly – have yet to realise the extent of the transformation.
As an SNP member, I now know that independence is inevitable, and while I pray that the doomed unionists will get the message and join the rest of us in a changed Scotland, I doubt they will ever surrender their tentative grasp on the increasing unreality called “the union”.
The fact is that independence is three or four years away, but as long as we suffer this out-of-date union, let us take on the Old Etonian yahoos running the country and stop them dividing Britain on spurious grounds.
My most fervent wish for the New Year is that the Tory ratbags and their toxic chums in the LieDemons will cease from their invidious practice of trying to alienate the people from the public sector.
Assisted by their pathetic knighthood-seeking lapdogs in the editors’ offices of the Tory press, David Cameron and Nick Clegg, for their own party political ends, are attempting to divide British society by casting public sector workers as some kind of enemy, leeches preying on the body private.
As they suck up to their banking chums and give big business the tax breaks they have paid for in brown envelopes, CamClegg use fiddled statistics and outright lies to try to denigrate honest public servants. Proof? In their war on the disabled they have brought in a French “outsourced” private firm to reclassify very ill people as “fit to work” – the French are here because civil servants would not play ball with such injustice.
This constant attack on public servants is not just disgusting. It is evil. To try to make Britain a “private good, public bad” society is beyond the nightmares even George Orwell concocted. They must be resisted and defeated.
No doubt most people this Hogmanay will reflect and look back and think on those we have lost. For my family, the recent death of a dearly loved one has been utterly grievous, but we are consoled by the knowledge that in his long career as a public servant, my wife’s brother, Bobby Horn, improved lives beyond calculation.
I have been very fortunate in my career to meet and shake the hands of men and women the world correctly regards as great: Nelson Mandela, Muhammad Ali and Princess Diana, to name but three. I have no hesitation, however, in saying that the finest gentleman I have ever known was my own brother-in-law.
Bobby Horn was a science teacher for more than 35 years, and in that time he changed the lives of hundreds of people for the better.
Dead so prematurely at 63, Bobby would have chided me in no uncertain terms for mentioning him, but to hear the tributes from former pupils and colleagues at his funeral service was to be reminded of the finest qualities of his profession. He was quiet, unassuming, focused, dedicated beyond belief and truly inspirational – typically, he never once claimed these virtues as his own. The best of the tributes came from my daughter Debbie who somehow, in her pain, found the words to capture him – a teacher who believed that if a pupil was failing, he or she was not being taught properly, a motivational uncle who always encouraged the positive in people.
My mother was also a teacher, and latterly headteacher, of a similar mould, and I have many family members and even more friends who were or are public servants. I was one myself once, but it was not the happiest time of my life.
Yet to hear the public sector denigrated because its members are simply trying to preserve pensions which successive governments promised and guaranteed is stomach-churning. My anger is growing by the day, and I pledge to campaign against this coalition’s anti-public sector hatred.
Next time you hear their false propaganda, remember the many millions of men and women like Bobby Horn who, every day across Britain, give of themselves in ways that pensions can never compensate for.
In the meantime, whatever your politics, whoever you are, may I wish a Guid New Year to you and yours.