Happy New Year! Or is it? After the chaos and upheaval of 2016, many will be glad to see the back of it. However, while 2016 may be behind us, it continues to cast a long shadow.
Even in a society where we too often resort to exaggeration, it is difficult to overstate the impact of the past 12 months. 2016 was a year of geo-political turmoil. The shockwaves from Brexit were still reverberating when the earthquake of Donald Trump’s election hit. As a result, the political consensus dominant in the western world over the past 70 years will be recast.
Vicious and persistent conflicts in Syria, Iraq and the Yemen have cost hundreds of thousands of lives, and sparked a humanitarian and refugee crisis on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War; a crisis western governments have failed to deal with. Alongside the threat of terrorism and climate change our world seems a very insecure place going into 2017.
Indeed, the political response to the trials and tribulations of 2016 has lurched from the unsatisfactory to the incompetent.
Take Brexit. It was thanks to former Prime Minister David Cameron’s hapless attempts to manage internal Conservative strife that the EU referendum happened in the first place, and Theresa May’s response to it, consisting largely of meaningless soundbites, has been completely inadequate. We still don’t know what “Brexit means Brexit” means.
The Tory government remain utterly unprepared to deal with the reality of leaving the EU, while in Scotland, the SNP’s cynical attempt to harness Brexit to kick-start their ailing independence arguments was only thwarted when the lack of public desire for another independence referendum became obvious. People do not want more uncertainty; they want stability and to get on with their lives.
Throughout 2016, stability has been sorely lacking. People in Scotland and across the UK have been poorly served by two governments incapable of acting in the interests of the country because of their ideological blindness. Despite the overwhelming evidence that austerity has failed, this Tory government has impetuously persisted with it, while its SNP counterparts in Holyrood have preached social democracy whilst acting as a conveyor belt for Tory cuts.
In December, the Scottish Government chose the path of least resistance by choosing not to use their extensive powers, and set out a further debilitating £327 million cuts to ouncil budgets. This will have a severe impact on the funding of our cherished local public services – our schools, social services and hospitals in Edinburgh.However, and while there appears scant cause for hope, we must not give in. 2017 should be the year to be resolute about where we stand, and what we stand for. We must defend the values that are important to us. This is what I’m determined to do both locally and nationally.
Whether it be conflicts in the Middle East that have proven intractable – we have a moral responsibility to do everything possible to help those affected. Whether it be Brexit presenting significant challenges – we must continue the struggle to make the case for continued access to the single market, defending EU nationals, and fight to protect rights and entitlements underpinned by EU law.
And looking to the future, we need a new Act of Union for the UK, to cement the nations and regions of the UK together in a post-Brexit Britain by devolving maximum powers to local areas and people.
To make progress though, post-truth politics must be consigned to 2016. Let’s make 2017 a year of positive change where constitutional politics takes a back seat to real issues like how we eradicate child poverty. Wouldn’t that be refreshing?
2016 was forgettable but I believe 2017 can be better. One thing is certain: we must take the lead and continue to fight for what we believe in. That’s my New Year resolution. What’s yours?
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South