2014 preview: Politics | Food | Fashion | Economy

The referendum on Scottish Independence will, unsurprisingly, take centre stage. Picture: Ian Rutherford
The referendum on Scottish Independence will, unsurprisingly, take centre stage. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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Truffles, see-through dresses, wearable computers and a certain referendum. Our preview ensures you are fully briefed for the coming 12 months

POLITICS by Tom Peterkin

WHATEVER the outcome of the independence referendum on 18 September, the as yet unwritten histories of Scotland will view 2014 as one of the most significant years in the story of a nation.

Those fighting for independence hope and believe that the odds can be overturned and that a Yes vote will mark the beginning of 18 months of negotiations to dismantle the United Kingdom and unravel a political union that has lasted for more than 300 years.

For independence supporters, 18 September is a crucial staging post on the journey to independence day on 24 March, 2016, when Scotland will, according to their predictions, finally be free from Westminster rule.

Those who disagree with First Minister Alex Salmond’s vision for the future will go to the polls in the hope that a No vote will kill off the threat of breaking up the UK for at least a generation and life can move on from the constitutional sniping that has dominated Scotland’s recent political history.

But before that day of destiny, the 2014 calendar has enough red letter days to make it stand out as a memorable year even if we could do the impossible and forget about independence.

The reality, however, is that the independence question will cast a long shadow over every public event – political, sporting, commemorative or otherwise.

As far as the pure politics is concerned, the new year will kick off with the Yes and No campaigns gearing up for the end of the referendum “phoney war”.

As far as Alistair Darling’s Better Together campaign is concerned, spring will see the pro-Union parties begin to spell out their vision of what a No vote will actually mean.

Since Salmond published his White Paper for independence, his supporters have been clamouring for the No side to set out the consequences of remaining within the UK.

Various commissions have been set up by the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems to look at this issue. It is expected that they will coalesce around a common plan that will see some sort of extension of the devolved powers. That moment will be eagerly awaited by nationalists desperate to tear these plans apart in much the same way as their blueprint for independence has been treated by the No campaign.

May’s European elections will give an early indication of the SNP’s popularity in referendum year. But almost as significant will be the performance of Ukip south of the Border. The odds are shortening on Nigel Farage’s party winning more support than the Tories, Labour and the Lib Dems.

If Farage emerges as the victor, the Yes campaign will see this as an indication of Scotland and England taking different political paths. But there will also be interest in how well Ukip does in Scotland.

The year is an important one for anniversaries. Prime Minister David Cameron has set out an ambitious programme for remembering the outbreak of the Great War. Inevitably, there will be those who want to make political capital out of the heroism of our troops in this horrific conflict. There will be those of a pro-UK persuasion who use it to point to the shared sacrifice of the British, whereas there are those of the opposite view who have already condemned the commemorations for being “jingoistic”.

An older conflict will be remembered during the last weekend in June, when the National Trust for Scotland stages a three-day re-enactment of Robert the Bruce’s great victory over the English to mark the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

Bannockburn, long a rallying point for nationalists, will witness a celebration that will be unable to escape political overtones. Those overtones will be magnified by clash of diary dates that sees the UK Armed Forces Day come to Stirling in the same weekend (although the date of the main Bannockburn event is currently under review).

The potential for political symbolism will move from the battlefields to the running tracks and sports arenas of Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games at the end of July. With the success of Team GB at the London Olympics still fresh in the mind, athletes will be split into their home nations as the world’s attention turns to Scotland. All eyes will be on the symbolism of the opening and closing ceremonies, and the effect it has on support for a breakaway Scotland.

By that stage of the year, Yes Scotland and Better Together will be preparing for a final late-summer push towards 18 September, which promises to be more intense than anything witnessed so far in this battle for the future of Scotland.

While the referendum will be all-consuming north of the Border, at Westminster life will continue. For the Conservative-led coalition government, as ever, the performance of the economy holds the key to success. Will the small signs of recovery trumpeted by Chancellor George Osborne in 2013 be translated into improved standards of living for ordinary people?

On the other side of the Commons, shadow Chancellor Ed Balls still has much work to do to convince the public that the economy would be safe in his hands before the 2015 general election.

There is also the question of whether tension within the coalition over welfare reforms and the Conservative attitude towards Europe will destabilise Cameron’s administration.

Needless to say, these issues will have repercussions north of the Border, where the performance of the UK Government will be at the heart of a debate over whether or not Scotland should go it alone.

FASHION by Dani Garavelli

JUST because the baubles have been taken down and the party dresses have been packed away doesn’t mean you have to forget about glitz and glamour for another year. According to those who keep their eyes on the catwalks, there will be plenty of opportunity to sparkle in 2014 as the satin, metallic and other shimmery fabrics which made their presence felt in the big autumn shows take the high street by storm. “A lot of designers including Christopher Kane [see model above] and Diane von Furstenberg were really pushing the shine,” says Tessa Hartmann, founder of the Scottish Fashion Awards. “I would expect to see glamorous satin suits in a myriad colours.”

As the temperature rises, we will also be dared to bare, with transparency very much in the ascendancy and sheer tops and flowing see-through skirts over little cropped pants worn by the more adventurous. “Haider Ackermann had one completely sheer top, where you could see the model’s boobs,” says Hartmann. “I think that look will stay on the catwalk, although people will chic it up for everyday, maybe wearing a little bra top underneath. It does demonstrate how full-on this look is and the advantage of sheer is you can reproduce it in cheaper materials such as viscose.”

Perhaps as a backlash against anti-corporate grunge or a response to social media and selfies, big, brash logos are staging a comeback, both as a statement of identity – see entire outfits plastered head to toe in the DKNY logo (right) – and with a slightly witty/subversive edge – see Alexander Wang’s top with Parental Advisory Explicit Content slapped across the front or the glow-in-the-dark I AM HERE message and anagrams contained in Jun Takahashi’s Undercover collection.

For those who don’t buy into the logomania, there is always the trend for florals. This is not about chintzy tea dresses, but big, bold designs, with sculpted blooms and 3D blossoms. “Every designer is doing it: Burberry, Carven, Dior, House of Holland, even our own Jonathan Saunders,” says Hartmann. “In 2014, we will see lovely flowing skirts, or casual sweatshirt-type tops and a more structured skirt, with a lot of floral designs and patterns on the sweatshirt.”

For those who can get away with it – ie, the slight and sylph-like – a look fashionistas are calling The New Silhouette will be hugely flattering. It’s a modern-day flapper look, with lean, long-line tunics and dropped waistlines. “Chanel did a gorgeous all-white knitted tank top that goes way down and sits right below your bottom, with a midi-hemline and a floaty skirt, but very fitted so it’s going to show up every bump and groove,” says Hartmann.

A Scottish influence will be in evidence in a revival of pleated skirts, some of which hint at kilts. They will come in all lengths from micro to maxi and take in some of the other trends for flowers and metallic fabrics.

Predicted micro-trends include inverse buttoning (doing up the first few at the top, then letting the rest of the garment float free as opposed to the other way round), the use of fringing and suede to give a cow-girl feel and, somewhat counter-intuitively, orthopaedic-style shoes. «

FOOD by Dani Garavelli

AS RED meat becomes increasingly expensive (the cost is expected to double by 2017), chicken will come to the fore, with southern ranch-type dishes making an appearance in restaurants towards the end of the year. Red meat will begin to be viewed as a luxury item and gourmet butchers will start appearing on our high streets.

“We are going to see a return to the way it was in the Sixties and Seventies,” says food futurologist Dr Morgaine Gaye. “We will stop buying our meat three for the price of two wrapped in cellophane from the local supermarket and start regarding it as something special that ought not to be wasted. People will want to learn more about how to handle it, with home butchery taking off the way home baking took off a couple of years ago and foodies going off and attending courses.”

But the rising cost of meat is also likely to see consumers search out other natural sources of protein: apricots, avocados, beetroot and, of course, kale. With interest in local, seasonal and foraged ingredients still rising, we are likely to see the return of hitherto neglected native fruits such as damsons, gooseberries, and mulberries, which are prolific and inexpensive. According to Gaye, we will see truffles, which are weight for weight more expensive than gold, going mainstream, with truffle crisps and truffle crackers making an appearance on supermarket shelves (a Heston Cauliflower Truffle Macaroni Cheese ready meal is already being sold at Waitrose). There will also be a rising demand for other hyper local ingredients such as seaweed, rosehip, nettle and wild mushroom.

The obsession with protein that began with the Dukan and Caveman diets is going to continue into 2014, according to Gaye, who says we will increasingly see it added to everyday foods such as bread, cereals and ice cream.

The combination of longer working hours and a desire for food to be functional as well as tasty is likely to lead to a burgeoning of wholesome on-the-go snack foods, with car-friendly packaging. “Health is becoming bigger and bigger,” says Gaye. “The idea of the quantified self means consumers want products that deliver more than just taste, they’ve got to deliver added health benefits.”

At the same time, our hectic and diverse lifestyles has meant the blurring of the traditional breakfast/lunch/dinner structure and a tendency towards 24-hour grazing. Gaye says this blurring, combined with the fact fewer people are eating breakfast at home means we are likely to see new healthy products coming on to the market to take the place of the muffin snatched at the railway station. There will be more smoothies, purées and health drinks and more exotic sandwiches and sliders (small rolls): lobster or wasabi and variations of burgers, with some restaurants introducing unconventional breakfast items such as super-spicy wraps with chipotle or sriracha (a hot Thai sauce).

According to food and restaurant consultants Baum and Whiteman, pop-ups, food fairs and single-item restaurants (selling anything from ramen burgers to baked potatoes to oatmeal-only churros) will continue to spread across the country. “But I think the bigger trend in the next couple of years will be about community,” says Gaye. “What we’ve realised is that when we have no money or we’re struggling it’s easier and cheaper to make more and share it.” In restaurant terms, that’s likely to translate into a trend towards large communal benches or at-the-bar dining with less formal cuisine with shared platters, to match.

Filipino and Middle Eastern dishes are likely to have moments this year, with shakshuka, a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chilli peppers and onions, finding its ways on to breakfast and lunch menus and pomegranate molasses moving into provincial supermarkets. There will be a new emphasis on Asian flavours such as gochujang, a sweet-spicy Korean chili paste, and shichimi togarashi, a Japanese blend of seven spices including ginger, nori and hot pepper.

LIFESTYLE by Dani Garavelli

THE world has been talking about Google glasses for some time, but the next 12 months will see an explosion in more affordable “wearable technology”, with products such as smart-watches going mainstream.

So confident are futurologists that we are on the brink of a revolution, Forbes Magazine has declared 2014 the Year of the Wearable. Deloitte has estimated the global market will be worth in excess of £1.2bn and companies are jostling to be at the forefront of this new phenomenon. Wearable technology is designed to make accessing information easier – smart-watches such as the Samsung Galaxy Gear and the Pebble, which cost between £200-£250, make it possible to access the internet, update your Facebook status and Tweet discreetly and easily, without having to take out your Android phone.

“We’ve already seen the launch of the FiLIP – a wrist device for kids that acts as both a smartphone and a locator for worried parents – and similar technology can take off for all ages,” says the company’s senior trends consultant Richard Cope.

But wearable technology also taps into the concept of the “quantified self”, the trend towards using technology to monitor every aspect of our lives on a minute to minute basis, from what we consume, to how much exercise we take, to our heart rate and blood pressure.

As well as watches, we will see a surge in shoe sensors, which monitor a runner’s technique, speed and distance, and Nike FuelBands – wrist straps which track activity converting it into Fuel points, pushing the wearer to meet a daily target, which is then charted on an app (the FuelBands also measure sleep patterns).

At the cutting edge of this technology are innovations such as the Smart Bra (below right), designed by researchers at Southampton University to track mood swings and prevent over-eating; and the MC10 Biostamp, a temporary tattoo with sensors that collects data such as body temperature, heart rate, brain activity, and exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Sony has already filed a patent application for a Smartwig (above) which can be worn “in addition to natural hair”, and will be able to process data and communicate wirelessly with other external devices.

Looking further ahead, companies including Samsung are also experimenting with foldable devices that could look like something out of a Salvador Dali painting, but are not expected to come on to the market until 2015.

In the wake of the revelations on the NSA and surveillance, we are likely to be on our guard against assaults on our privacy. Yet at the same time, we may start to turn data mining to our own advantage, using the information big companies gather to improve our diet or cut down on our spending.

“The next stage is for grocery brands to offer positive data surveillance for customers – in the form of opt-in nutritional analysis services,” says Cope. “Thirty-six percent of UK grocery shoppers say they would be interested in a nutritional review of basket content.”

But there are also signs this could be extended to the banking sector, with customers encouraged to stay out of debt by being given constant feedback on their spending habits and rewarded for staying out of debt with reduced charges and additional services.

There will be no let-up on the ecological front in 2014.

Indeed, far from consumers tiring of green issues, they will look to products to be even more environmentally friendly. Trendwatching.com predicts there will be a surge of interest in products that “have new life inside”. These products are not merely recyclable, they can be planted and grown. One early example is Sprout, a pencil, containing a seed, which can be planted when it is too short to use (although, at £19.99 there are probably cheaper ways of writing and/or growing herbs).

Brazil will see us fall head over heels in love with the land of fiestas and favelas as excitement over the 2014 World Cup mounts. According to Mintel, most consumers are already aware of Havaianas – Brazilian flip-flops which are de rigueur for the summer – but other Brazilian beach wear brands such as Água de Coco, Salinas and Blue Man are likely to become popular.

Moët et Chandon already produces a Brazilian sparkling wine produced in the Bento Gonçalves area and the country is an emerging wine producer. Cachaca, a spirit made from sugar cane, which is the country’s most popular distilled alcoholic beverage and is used to make cocktails such as the caipirinha, may catch on, with Sagatiba and Velho Barreiro the brands to look out for. “There’s also potential for Açaí berries – eaten as both an exercise fuel and relaxing snack in Brazil – as well as Brazilian branded coconut water products,” says Cope.

ECONOMY by Terry Murden, Business Editor

IT IS not too many months ago that all the talk in economics circles was of a meltdown in Europe, the demise of the euro and another decade of austerity across the developed nations.

While no-one is pretending that the problems associated with the 2008 financial crash have been resolved, the turnaround has been fairly sudden and optimism is firmly back on the agenda.

Yet it is a strange sort of recovery. Output growth in 2014 is expected to be higher than most forecasts, possibly as high as 3 per cent, with interest rates remaining at their current rate throughout the year and more jobs being created by the private sector.

However, public sector debt will be stubbornly high, prompting a further tightening of spending and cutbacks in staffing. Unemployment will fall only slowly as new jobs are filled increasingly by imported labour due to the ongoing skills gap, which means that Gordon Brown’s infamous phrase – British jobs for British workers – will continue to be an illusion.

The rebalancing of the economy was a coalition objective made necessary by Britain’s over-reliance on financial services, and the private sector is at long last mopping up jobs of those displaced from the public sector. Even so, the need to rebuild industry and restore the art of making things is a work in progress. The engineering industry in all its forms will create 1.28 million vacancies by 2020, but the UK is not providing enough trained people to fill these jobs. If the coming year is to show any progress on this front then skills must form part of an industrial and training strategy, north and south of the Border.

There has also been a call for an export-led recovery and the appreciation of sterling may force early action from the Bank of England.

As for the Scottish economy, the independence referendum will inevitably be a key theme, dividing opinion between those who believe it will make no difference to company ambitions and those who see it as a disruptive and potentially damaging process.

There is evidence that it is suppressing property values and investor interest, while others point to record levels of foreign money pouring into Scotland. Beyond that, business issues surrounding currency, taxation and European Union membership are unlikely to swing the vote, but are fundamental to the debate. We may see more business leaders declare their positions to ensure the importance of these issues is not lost in the overall political fog.

The overall direction of the world economy will as usual rest on the fortunes of the US. The easing down of the quantitative easing programme before Christmas did not shake the markets as some expected. Instead, there was relief that a decision had been taken and that it showed the US economy to be in revival mode.

China is likely to slow down, while Japan is at last getting to grips with its long slump and the Indian elections may help to turn sentiment further in favour of more western investment.

But it will be the prospect of the 2015 general election in the UK that will dictate the pattern of the Treasury’s thinking in the last full year before Britain’s goes to the polls, possibly the last such election if Scotland votes for independence.

Chancellor George Osborne (left) will not be diverted from his austerity measures, though the recovery is coming at just the

right time, assuming it is sustainable. He will be delighted that he was able to sell off part of Lloyds Bank, but disappointed that Royal Bank of Scotland is likely to remain part-owned by the state for some time yet.

INTERNATIONAL by Jane Kinninmont

A HUNDRED years after the First World War, in 2014 international politics will be characterised by attempts by major world powers to avoid becoming directly involved in wars over Syria, Iran or elsewhere. The US in particular will try to manage its relations with an increasingly economically powerful China by encouraging closer economic co-operation, and will be heavily involved in diplomacy with an assertive Russia, focusing in particular on getting Western troops out of Afghanistan with dignity.

Russia will take over the presidency of the G8 and will put the issue of migration at the top of the agenda. Russia’s officials say it is now the world’s second largest importer of labour. And migration will be one of the top issues in EU politics as Britain, Germany and a number of other large economies seek to limit the openness of EU labour markets.

One of 2014’s first diplomatic developments is likely to be the Syria peace conference in Switzerland, scheduled for 22 January. It will not bring peace to Syria. But it is an opportunity for the larger powers that back different sides in the Syria conflict – especially the US and Russia – to agree to stop the conflict escalating further, and to focus instead on avoiding the collapse of the Syrian state and the emergence of a new haven for jihadi militants. It will become increasingly obvious that Western governments are quietly backing down on earlier demands for President Bashar Assad, to go.

The recent interim deal over Iran’s nuclear programme expires in the first half of next year. It was a rare diplomatic achievement to bring about an agreement that the US, Iran, Russia, China and key European powers were all happy with. Reaching a longer-term agreement will test the domestic strength of both President Barack Obama and his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani. Tensions between the US and some of its Gulf allies, together with the uncertainty over Iran, may keep oil prices volatile next year.

This will also be the year to test the US’s new push for Israel-Palestinian peace. Palestinian diplomats are already saying the US is reluctant to exert real pressure with Israel and its prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, already upset over Iran. But at least the talks are at last discussing the fundamental issues – compromises on people and land.

Elections are due in Egypt, which may bring the head of the army, General Sissi, into formal political power; in Iraq, likely to be violent; in India; and in Brazil, where they will come shortly after the World Cup – and could well be affected both by any protests around the tournament, and by how successful the Brazilian team is. Meanwhile, the referendum on Scottish independence will be closely watched around the world, with some enthusiasm among independence-seeking people from the Kurds to the Basques to the Palestinians, and trepidation from the states they currently live in.

Jane Kinninmont is Deputy Head and Senior Research Fellow at Chatham House