2014: Scotland’s Year in the Sun

It’s easy to think back with a heady nostalgia over the year gone by when the days between Christmas and New Year draw in and you realise that soon it’ll be a new calendar you need rather than just a new page.  Every year I try to look back on things and remember what the big moments were, just to get a sense of perspective on it.  Normally it revolves around making something out to be a little more important or joyful that it was.  This year though, I think it’s very hard to go overboard on how things have been here in Scotland in what was an absolutely phenomenal year.

Of course at the centre of Scotland’s year in almost every way was the independence referendum, which took place on the 18th of September.  Scotland was to be given, for the first time ever, a chance to decide whether or not it should become independent from the UK and take charge of its own destiny.  For many it was the culmination of decades’ worth of campaigning.  The first nine months of this year were characterised by an ever increasing tension and excitement around Scotland, as people began to make up their minds and discuss and debate the issues surrounding independence with their friends and families.  The atmosphere around the country, wherever I went, in the run up to the referendum was electric.  For me as a Yes voter, the way in which the independence cause slowly built up in support to a point before the referendum where it could have even been said to be in the lead was tremendously exciting.  History was being made before our eyes.

However, the 18th of September was not the day that Scotland chose to become independent – as the record turnout rejected the proposal by the now infamous 55-45% margin.  The dream was over, but as it turned out only for a short while.  Rather than seeing the nationalist ideal and its’ vanguard party the SNP falling by the wayside, the defeat galvanised the supporters of independence into its’ institutions.  The SNP’s membership skyrocketed to a point where it is now far and away the 3rd largest supported party in the UK.  Polls since the referendum have consistently predicted the SNP to be on course for a landslide win in Scottish constituencies in next year’s General Election – which could give them a defining role in choosing the next Government with the Conservatives and Labour both in a dead heat.

Scotland is supposed to be given new powers in the next parliament that will make it one of the most powerful devolved legislatures in the world.  While in the eyes of many the new raft of proposed powers hastily drawn up by the Smith Commission are far short of what is wanted, it does seem that Scotland has taken another big step towards self-determination this year – even if not the final one.  Support for independence has never been higher, and although there is no cast-iron commitment from the SNP as of yet if such support holds steady for several years in one of the most turbulent political times in living memory then the potential for another referendum is very real.

Next year will be another big year in Scottish politics, with the General Election in May being almost a referendum on the political parties’ treatment of the country during the referendum campaign and beyond.  While there might not be quite the excitement that there was this year, 2015 will undoubtedly set the stage for the near future in Scotland.

But aside from the politics of the country, Scotland has also been showcased to the world in many other ways.  Glasgow hosted the Commonwealth Games at the end of July and start of August, and put on a fantastic show that has been widely considered to be one of the most successful Games in history.  It was a great spectacle of sport, with plenty of Scottish success to cheer on – so much so that we finished 4th in the medal behind England, Australia and Canada.

Scotland also played host to golf’s Ryder Cup, which saw yet another emphatic win for the European team over their American counterparts.  Being the home of the sport, seeing the sport’s biggest event take place in its’ natural environment definitely added to the significance of the tournament – and despite the game’s relatively niche appeal it brought a significant amount of cash to the country’s economy.

The brand-new SSE Hydro in Glasgow also played host to the MTV EMA awards, which is one of Europe’s biggest music events.  Of course Scotland’s used to big gigs, with T in the Park again living up to its reputation of one of the best festivals around this year, but the fact that there’s now venues here that are attracting worldwide talent and attention is definitely a sign that Scotland is garnering a reputation as a nation of music-lovers.

So when so much has happened this year for Scotland it’s hard to imagine that 2015 will be nearly as eventful.  There’s the first Old Firm derby in three years in February, The Open in St Andrews in July, as well as the usual parade of events such as T, but there’s definitely nothing as major or far-reaching as there was in 2014.  Despite that though, I’m sure it’ll be a good one, even if it is a wee bit quieter.

I hope it’s a great New Year for everyone, have a good one!

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