Whether it was sport, politics or charity, this has been a memorable year for the nation
Being a large-glass-of-Bacardi-and-Coke-half-full sort of chap, I have tended to see the good in every year that passes. Even in those years when the occasional personal crisis has occurred I find there have been more than enough blessings to cancel out the disasters. The years when Celtic won the European Cup; the Berlin Wall came down; Margaret Thatcher demitted office and Bill Clinton won a second term are obvious stand-outs, but this year has not been too shabby either. So here are my most memorable moments and people of 2012.
The Edinburgh Agreement
David Cameron came north and conceded what every reasonable person had already acknowledged when the SNP won a landslide in 2011: that there would have to be a referendum on Scottish independence. That it granted us a two-year period in which to debate Scotland’s future and that there will only be one question on the ballot paper were also happy outcomes. Two years is the least amount of time required to prepare for a vote that will define Scotland like no other in modern Scottish history. And why would any nationalist want the independence-lite option to distract voters from proper independence? Those of us who are spared come the end of 2014 ought to feel privileged that we have been chosen to decide Scotland’s destiny in this way.
Celtic 2 Barcelona 1
This was quite simply the best result ever achieved by any Scottish club in the history of European football (apart, that is, from the obvious in 1967). There have been many other splendid results by Scottish teams in this arena, not the least of which were Rangers’ defeat of Bayern Munich in 1972; Aberdeen’s victory over Real Madrid in 1983 and any of Dundee United’s four triumphs against Barcelona in 1966 and 1987.
The current Barcelona team, though, is the best club side the world has ever seen and no Scottish club had previously prevailed against such a mighty opponent and in such a prestigious competition. That such a result was achieved under the tactical guidance of Neil Lennon simply made the victory sweeter. The vendetta to which this man has been subjected by a significant proportion of modern Scotland on account of his religion and his nationality has shamed Scotland for 12 years. No other figure in Scottish public has had to endure such venom, yet the response by the Scottish government and the SFA has been shameful in its timidity. He is Scotland’s true man of the year.
Johann Lamont’s speech
When Johann Lamont, the MSP for Glasgow Pollok, was elected leader of the Scottish Labour party, it was possible to observe the lips of Edinburgh’s political classes curl in disdain. She is no manicured and freeze-wrapped political cypher and, to the palpable disgust of the self-appointed political elite, she persists in clinging to her Glasgow working-class accent during debates in the chamber of the third niece of all parliaments.
Yet she has displayed commendable grace under pressure during debates with the formidable Alex Salmond and has managed to rattle him on more than a few occasions. She has shown what a woman from an unprivileged background can achieve in modern Scotland. Yet in her speech to party members in September she resembled nothing more than a woman on a lifeboat busy pulling the rescue ladder up after her. Most of us never imagined we would ever see a Scottish Labour leader use terms such as “something for nothing culture” and “all on the never-never” to describe Scotland’s benefits system. Imperfect it may be, but under generations of Scottish Labour local and national governments poverty and want have flourished. Ms Lamont ought to be tasking her feckless, dim advisers to help her develop new ideas to combat this scandal. If they succeed it will be a first for the People’s party.
Andy Murray wins the US Open
My Christmas television highlight this year wasn’t Downton Abbey‘s drawing-room drivel or Dr Who continuing to disappear up its own fundament. It was the rerun of Andy Murray’s heroic victory in the US Open against Novak Djokovic. Watching it second time around you can observe just how bravely and brilliantly Murray played without diving out of the room every few games when the tension got too edgy first time around. This was memorable even for those of us who have never ever worn a white sandshoe.
But I also cherish Murray’s taciturn mien when being interviewed and his choosing to forgo the vapid mince of other modern sports stars. His feat in New York eclipsed anything that Bradley Wiggins achieved on the back of a bike in a sport that no one trusts any more. And, be honest, one day after Jessica Ennis won Olympic gold could anyone name more than three events in the heptathlon? The fact that this hard-working and decent pair came ahead of Murray in the Sports Personality of the Year award tells you all you need to know about how easy it is to buy off middle England these days.
The Calton Fire Brigade
The building that houses the firefighters of Calton Fire and Rescue is situated round the corner from Glasgow’s Barrowland emporium and market. The men serve one of Europe’s most deprived neighbourhoods and are aware of the needs evident in their surroundings. Last Sunday, they hosted a Christmas party for 300 of Glasgow’s most vulnerable families during which they effectively turned their station over to the children and their parents.
Earlier in the week, they collected cash for the With Kids charity, which works with these families. Their work guaranteed several hundred children a Christmas gift, something that many may only rarely have previously seen during Santa’s very sporadic visits to that side of town. Perhaps Johann Lamont could ask Calton Fire and Rescue to host a wee orientation day for her top team.