Leaders: A time to consider the possibilities 2016 holds

New Year is time to consider future possibilities. Picture: Neil Hanna
New Year is time to consider future possibilities. Picture: Neil Hanna
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Divisions and discord will be on show in this election year – so the public should strive to set an example for our politicians

The dawn of a New Year is a time rich in hope and possibility. From the smallest resolutions to the grandest of intentions, all of us will in some way aspire to improve our lives and, perhaps, those of others.

After a tumultuous few years in Scottish life, when one seismic change has given way to another, it has not been easy to consider how these changes might go further and enhance the life of our nation as a whole. Now, when we have a rare chance for reflection, is as good a time for any.

Such thoughts clearly occupied the mind of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon when composing her New Year message. It is a bold and yearning address. Perhaps some might view it as unrealistic, but it is worth digesting.

In an attempt to kickstart a shift in Scotland’s outlook, Ms Sturgeon has resolved that 2016 should be a “year of optimism and ambition”, one in which the country’s “can-do culture” should come to the fore.

It is in part a gauntlet thrown down to the nation’s business community to innovate, inspire and lead, but Ms Sturgeon’s clarion call goes further. This new attitude, she explained, should “define us as a country on every level”, adding: “Let’s make it a year defined not by what we can’t do, but by what we can.”

This is a commendable sentiment. Optimism can be a transformative force, both for individuals and the society in which they live. Putting it into practice, however, proves a ­persistent stumbling block.

For a political leader to make such a call is refreshing, but nor is it unprecedented. As the bells chimed for Hogmanay the year before, Ms Sturgeon used her first New Year message as First Minister to commend the “spirit of empowerment that so lit up 2014” and urged people “not to slip back to business at usual”.

The acrimonious political discourse of the past 12 months would suggest that few, if any, of our elected representatives – Ms Sturgeon included – heeded those words, and one need only look at the New Year messages from other leaders to see that the electioneering is already at full throttle.

Scottish Labour’s Kezia Dugdale, for example, struck a different tone entirely in her ­message to the country, one created firmly with May’s election in mind.

“Saying you are for something but refusing to do anything about it just won’t wash any more,” Ms Dugdale said, in a thinly veiled attack on the SNP.

Given the high stakes at Holyrood, we should not be surprised. Over the next five months, it seems inevitable that the rancour and division of an election year will put paid to Ms Sturgeon’s ambition.

Yet if this is the case, should we not strive to set an example for our politicians rather than the other way around? Be in no doubt, 2016 will bring its fair share of discord and discontent. It is incumbent on everyone to harness the confidence and potential that is so abundant at this time of the year and ensure it does not desert us in whatever fallow weeks and months might lie ahead.

A safe and happy New Year to all

There are no doubt many Scots who will take little comfort in the traditional greetings that usher in a New Year. Nature’s wrath ensured 2015 ended on a sour note, with some of the most ferocious storm conditions in a generation inflicting widespread damage and disruption to thousands of households and businesses.

Those affected are in our thoughts.

The good news is they will take strength from the charity and benevolence that is a hallmark of Scottish life, not just over Hogmanay, but year round, as friends and family – as well as emergency services – rally round to help. Fortunately, forecasters are confident the worst of Storm Frank is behind us; those who suffered at its might can expect at least a safe start to 2016.

The good news is that there is much to look forward to in the coming 12 months, and not just for seasoned political observers. There is much to choose from in the rich tapestry of sporting and cultural showpieces that lies ahead. The spectacle of London 2012, for example, still looms large in the memory, but once again the greatest athletes in the world will compete for glory as the Olympic and Paralympic Games visit Rio.

As detailed in our Year Ahead series, Scotland’s achievements in innovation, architecture and design will be showcased with a programme of activity sure to spellbind and celebrate the very best of our country’s achievements.

Coupled with our increasingly successful festivals, there is much to anticipate. It has been a testing transition from 2015, but rest assured, these are interesting and exciting times. We wish all our readers and advertisers a happy and prosperous New Year.