Martin Hannan: Many reasons to be cheerful

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This being my last column of the year, I thought I would take a look back at the big events of the year, and then I thought ‘why bother?’ as every reader will have lived through them and probably won’t want to be reminded of the follies of our politicians and the sheer misery of living in a country with permanently rotten weather.

So let’s forget all that stuff and look ahead to the new year. I do so with optimism.

It could be a very exciting year for Edinburgh in many fields, and I expect national and local politics to be a major talking point all year as we prepare for the Scottish Parliamentary election and the referendum on the UK’s membership of the European Union.

As an SNP member, I want my party to win the election in May and carry on as the Scottish Government, but I would also like to see an improved performance by the opposition parties who have been frankly woeful over the last few years. We need the Scottish Government to be held to account, and as the Forth Road Bridge closure showed, the opposition cannot get its act together properly when serious questioning is needed. Or else why has the SNP increased its lead in opinion polls?

There’s a real debate to be had about whether the Labour Party in Scotland separates from the UK-wide party, and with its vote to reject the renewal of Trident, Scottish Labour’s branch office is now on a definite collision course with head office. If Labour is not to go the way of the Tories and Liberal Democrats and wither away completely in Scotland, then someone needs to give the party a shake and get Labour back to being socialist again – and neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Kezia Dugdale inspire confidence that they can reverse Labour’s fading fortunes.

The issue which will dominate the year will be the EU referendum. Right now I am in two minds about voting, because while I am naturally inclined towards membership of the EU, I would utterly reject it if the forthcoming TTIP trade agreement does not exempt the NHS. I suspect that will become a burning issue in the campaign leading up to the vote. Much will depend on what deal David Cameron can get from other countries.

We have a lot to look forward to in sport. We will see the opening of Oriam, the new national performance centre for sport, at Heriot-Watt and I believe that it will be a game changer for our elite sports stars.

I am taking Hearts to finish in the top three of the Premiership and thus qualify for European football – a fantastic achievement for a club that was on its uppers two seasons ago.

Hibs will win promotion, and we will see the Edinburgh derby restored next season. I am not going to predict that Hibs will win the Scottish Cup, but I am going to take them to reach the League Cup final by beating St Johnstone at the end of January, and then who knows what might happen.

Edinburgh Rugby’s weekend performance against Glasgow Warriors showed what they can do, and I think they will come good next year.

Whatever happens, I hope you have a safe and successful 2016.

We’re in a real muddle over giant puddles

One of the most annoying things on our rubbish road system is the way “flood” signs appear with regularity every time there’s a downpour.

They are ubiquitous, and do absolutely no good because motorists do not know if the sign is indicating a loch or a puddle. The only way to find out is to drive through the water, and that can sometimes be not very clever.

Not once, not ever at all, have I ever seen anybody actually fixing one of these “flood” areas.

It is as if the road authorities are just accepting defeat and would prefer to spend money on putting up these stupid signs every year rather than correcting the problem that causes the flood.

Secrecy stinks in Calton Hill ban

The closure of Calton Hill for a few hours either side of the bells on Hogmanay is not proving very popular with the people who have used it for years to get a free view of the fireworks.

I am not sure whether the closure is the right option or not, because we have not seen the evidence about the health and safety risks.

The decision was simply announced by the council. As far as I am aware there was no public debate on the matter, and no committee decision.

That is what stinks about this issue – the secrecy.

Market forces at full strength

Have to say that a visit to the Christmas market in Princes Street was a huge hit for us, though that may have been down to the glühwein served in the Bothy.

A most interesting concoction, I must say.

Watch this space

The council is openly consulting about its budget and the cuts it is having to make, and that’s a good process. We have heard plenty objections to cuts, but precious few alternatives have been suggested. I have heard one amazing idea, and I am checking it out for next week.