LIKE newspaper columnists the world over, I’ve been scratching my head as I approach my last 800-word contribution in this extraordinary year. It may be a very long time before historians can put 2016 into perspective, but right now it’s very hard not to reach for hyperbole.

Each year sees the deaths of some much-loved figures with global profile, but from Bowie to Cohen and many more, this year’s toll seems to have been particularly heavy. Natural disaster, war and atrocity have never seemed far away, and we ended the year also bearing witness from afar to the brutal and dehumanising siege of Aleppo.

On both sides of the Atlantic the populist far right has grown in its reach and in its audacity. As if fated to be right 10 years too early, many radical voices on the left of politics who have railed against the dominant free market economic system and the hoarding of wealth by the few, appear to have been overtaken by a wave of racist and authoritarian rhetoric which offers a false promise of taking back “control” or regaining “greatness” instead of any meaningful progress for the many.

The world must now decide how to deal with the Trumps, the Le Pens and their ilk. We would be gravely mistaken to simply treat them like normal politicians; appeasement was tried before, and did not work.

We are still faced with the choice which Martin Luther King framed as “chaos or community”. If we continue to let our economic and political system leave so many people abandoned, they will be left with no reason to believe in the idea of a society based on empathy, mutual concern and human rights, and destructive chaos will be the inevitable result. We mustn’t shrink from these challenges, but nor should we dwell only on the negative. There have been positive developments in 2016, too. Climate denial, like other rejections of science and expertise, continues but this was also the year in which the vast bulk of the world’s countries signed up to the Paris Agreement, and most have also ratified it. The commitment to limit global temperature increase to 2C above pre-industrial levels, and to aim to keep it within 1.5C, comes too late to make the task easy, and this year has also seen CO2 increase to new record levels, as weather systems and sea ice alike continue to show the effects. But the ongoing development of economically viable clean energy sources is at least convincing many governments that it’s in their interests to try.

As for the situation here at home, 2017 is, of course, set to be dominated by the consequences of the EU referendum.

The Scottish Government has set out its stall, and its Brexit paper represents the closest thing I’ve seen to a serious effort to achieve compatibility between the 2014 and 2016 referendum results.

If Scotland is to stay in the UK, and have its Remain vote respected, the UK Government and its supporters will need to do more than just pour cold water on it. For me, the Scottish Government’s paper goes just about as far as is tolerable – perhaps even a little too far – toward compromise. If the UK Government rejects it, it will be playing fast and loose with a union it claims to support.

Once it finally publishes its own Brexit plans (presumably in March, a mere nine months after the referendum result) the economic realities will begin to hit home. If it goes down the route it currently seems set upon, trying to take the whole UK out of the single market as well as the EU, they will bear sole responsibility for the damage which follows.

Against this backdrop, it falls to us in Scotland once again to find positive opportunities from this crisis of the UK Government’s making. Greens will continue to make the case that those opportunities must come not only from a claim for a greater degree of self-government at home and a greater voice representing ourselves on the world stage, but also from showing the courage of our convictions and acting with the powers we do have, even within their limits.

Next year should be the one in which we stop comparing ourselves only to the UK when it comes to economic activity, education, tax levels, or anything else; we should compare ourselves instead to the Scotland we want to be, to the Scotland we want to leave behind when it is the next generation’s turn to take on the challenges their country faces.

That won’t be easy. It will take a change of our political culture which no one person or party can bring about. But if we can achieve it together, we will open up the possibilities that their inheritance will be a fairer, healthier, greener and more peaceful one.