Andrew Wilson: Stay positive and set a new course

The nephew of Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, killed in the bin lorry crash, expressed forgiveness through Twitter. Picture: TSPL
The nephew of Jack and Lorraine Sweeney, killed in the bin lorry crash, expressed forgiveness through Twitter. Picture: TSPL
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‘A YEAR like no other” is how BBC Scotland’s jingle aptly described 2014. We shall see about that. Whatever else happened it was a year in which Scotland demonstrated to itself and the rest of our world that we can be ambitious, put on a big show of our own and determine our own course as we choose. And we did that. All of us.

I turned 44 yesterday. This is simply unacceptable on a number of levels and I would like to put on public record my position on this. How did that happen? I specifically ordered eternal youth, but time’s tide will smother us all. This is one of the few certainties we are offered on a plate, regardless of our appetite.


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But long ago I learned one of the most important of life’s lessons, which is not to complain about the things you cannot control and to focus your energy on the things that you can. Go further and take responsibility for the path you take in life and you can forgive yourself your sins and most importantly of all, shed the misdeeds done to you and carry them no inch further.

Life is too short as those of us beyond our biblical mid-point know only too well. As do a group of Glasgow families robbed of so much by the tragic traffic accident.

The nephew of the couple who were killed with their grand-daughter this week took to Twitter to wish the driver a speedy recovery saying he hoped he realised it was not his fault. His family had lost three beloved souls.

That small act of grace and forgiveness is the single most important thing we could witness in our country in 2014 in a year of quite remarkable moments.

Marc Gardiner of Dumbarton, young man I salute you. That natural instinct in you will carry you far in life. Replicated by us all it could take the nation to greatness. Truly. The sort of greatness that saves lives rather than destroys them.

Many flags were waved this year. Much glory was cheered. Triumph and disaster imposed themselves in too many hearts and tears flowed, mine included, too many of them. Tensions ran high. Tempers were tested along with relationships. Lies were told, fears were spread along with far too much contempt.

The motivations and devotion of opponents were doubted. Whenever you feel that in your heart, check yourself, it is destructive. Whatever side you have been on know this; your opponents love their country just as much as you do, and they are just as clever as you also.

And for all on my side of the big choice this year we must devote ourselves to asking what we should have done better rather than criticising the winners for winning.

Heaven knows I feel the same frustrations about the scale of what we came up against. But if we waste our energy on that rather than the essence of what we can control then we fail. How ironic it is that proponents of independence spend so much time living the opposite in their words and deeds by being dependent for our success on the actions of others? Enough. Our job now is not to cry ‘foul’ because none was committed that would have changed the day.

Our job is to demonstrate by our conduct and action, every day, that Scotland and all of its communities can be bettered by the people who live in them. Now. We must revisit the arguments and cases we made and make good the errors and the ­weaknesses. Who knows when that choice will pass this way again or if it ever will. But if there is to be a next time I want the positive case to be ­impeccable.

Meantime, let’s none of us sit at the sidelines waiting for something to happen the absence of which means we must do nothing other than point our fingers. That spirit is the polar opposite of the one we preached this year.

We must harness the energy on all sides that pulsed through the country and pulses still. And we must focus it through the words and actions of people like Marc Gardiner and use it to build a better life for us all. Now.

Politicians matter. And I hope one of the other big lessons of this year is that we must celebrate and thank those called to public service who devote their lives to it, especially the ones we disagree with. Almost all of them are well-motivated and good people. My only advice is to place a premium on those with clear purpose, honesty and transparency. These are the assets that will determine success in public office in the years to come.

The beautiful Brazilian writer ­Paulo Coelho tells us: “A boat is safe in the harbour, but that is not the purpose of a boat”. Too many of our boats are anchored in the satisfyingly safe waters of how we have always thought, felt and behaved.

Pick three small things we can do in 2015 to change that and do them. Starting with our own personal version of Marc Gardiner’s grace and forgiveness. Slip anchor on old ways and sail on. «


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