Martin Hannan: The good and the bad of 2014

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. Pic: Jane Barlow

Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond. Pic: Jane Barlow

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This has been a hugely important year for Scotland, and once again we have seen heroes and villains emerge.

No doubt about the biggest event of the year – September 18 was a huge disappointment for me as an SNP member, but I salute the heroism of the people of Scotland who took a massive decision in a mature and responsible fashion.

We showed the world that democracy is not just the best way to decide matters such as the future of a country – it’s the only way. So even though I didn’t like the outcome, let’s move on and deal with the issues that Scotland needs to tackle. And they are legion.

My personal heroes of the year start with Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon, who both fought such a good referendum campaign and were dignified in defeat. They will both be important figures in 2015 and long afterwards, because they are doughty fighters for Scotland and we need such people more than ever in the face of an unfeeling and downright cruel Westminster government.

The people of Glasgow gave us such a wonderful life-affirming Commonwealth Games, and then showed at the end of the year that the city is truly resilient in the face of great tragedy. If they gave honours to cities, I’d nominate Glasgow for the lot.

It almost goes without saying that the emergency services showed yet again at George Square just how professional and competent they are. That they do so on a daily basis across Scotland in dealing with a multitude of personal disasters is why they are always heroes.

Our NHS remains heroic in the face of increasing pressures. The Scottish health service must always be protected from the rapaciousness of the private sector, so I nominate the people who are campaigning against the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership as another set of heroes.

In sport, the Games gave us a succession of Scottish heroes, but I have to nominate Charlie Flynn, the mailman who delivered gold in the boxing ring, and fellow gold medallist Josh Taylor, pictured, from Prestonpans as the biggest achievers for their victories on an unforgettable finals afternoon in the Hydro arena. Magical stuff.

Leith Rugby Club are my newest heroes for their decision to risk losing two points so that they could help out a local charity. And the Scottish Rugby Union must be commended for not imposing the sanction after hearing Leith’s case – there’s hope for the blazers yet!

Villains? Start with David Cameron and work down the list of this dreadful coalition government. Disgraceful self-servers, the lot of them.

Nasties? The Consort group who continue to make money out of 
people’s misery with their parking fees at the Royal Infirmary. Disgusting.

My main pantomime villain, however, was Luis ‘the Biter’ Suarez who besmirched a wonderful World Cup.

I return finally to the referendum, and the energy it released across the country. That will be the greatest legacy of the vote – many more people across Scotland are now actively looking to get involved in many issues that previously they would just have ignored. Our elected politicians had better improve their act substantially as they will face much more scrutiny in future. They had better not forget that, in a sense, we are all politicians now.

High school plan gets pass marks

The plan to turn the old Royal High School building into a luxury hotel must be commended. It should have been the Scottish Parliament, of course, but Donald Dewar in a rare error of judgement decided that blowing a fortune on the new parliament at Holyrood was better than seeing a “nationalist shibboleth” put to its intended use.

I remember the day in 1994 when the old district council bought it back from the Tory Government for £1.75 million. Everyone said it was a waste of money – and that’s what it looked like when Saint Donald intervened.

Now it could yet be a good investment, so let’s hope that the council and developers can get their act together.

Chance to vote out war against society’s poor

The new year, I predict, will see the rise of a campaign to end the massive cuts being imposed on the public sector as a result of the successive austerity budgets of the coalition government.

It must be hoped that Edinburgh’s protesters do not fail to make the point that this is a still very much a divided city, with wealth sitting cheek-by-jowl with poverty, and Edinburgh has its fair share of people who have been directly hit by the Westminster policies that make war on the poor.

Come May 7, let’s all show the coalition what we think of them once and for all.

Trams a real hit

According to Edinburgh Trams boss Tom Norris, collisions with other vehicles were unavoidable. Of course, we’ll ignore the fact that these same trams twice hit the airport buffers.

Clubs are doing Capital proud

ADMIT it, if anyone had said at the start of 2014 that Hearts would be 15 points clear at the top of the Championship and Hibs would end the year by hammering Rangers 4-0, you would have laughed at them

It’s been a tough year for our relegated clubs but, boy, have they fought back brilliantly. Well done to both.