THIS year, taking stock of what’s past and what’s ahead can be a real source of anxiety at the state of our world, and the state of our politics. We mustn’t let that feeling become paralysing. It’s down to each of us to decide whether to give in defeatism, or to keep hold of the hope that gives us motivation. Hope is hard work these days, but it has never been more important.

Nowhere is that more urgently the case than on climate. We’re reached the point where grand, sweeping rhetoric can be found across the whole political spectrum, yet the action doesn’t match up. Speeches are made about the climate emergency, and phrases like “just transition” and “green industrial revolution” have become cheap currency. Yet the COP summit in Madrid was a wash-out.

In Australia people are coping with long term record-breaking heat, and the resultant wildfire crisis have prompted a state of emergency. Yet in the midst of this, the PM flew off on holiday while his minister for emissions reductions reopened a coal mine.

Here at home we’ve seen dire warnings about how much of the country will disappear below sea level, yet the political response remains focused on long term targets. The claim that “the transition is under way” keeps resurfacing, yet oil and gas extraction is still going up.

Even against this backdrop, the incessant urgent demand for radical action which is coming from the youth climate movement is a reminder that, sometimes, the appetite for change grows despite the inaction of the political system.

This year has also been a horrific reminder of the prejudice, hostility and propaganda which I remember having directed at my community back in the 80s and 90s. Gay men in particular, but also anyone who wasn’t straight, was routinely portrayed as predatory, unstable, and unsafe.

Now the very same tropes and prejudices are being directed against trans and nonbinary people, as a small but vocal lobby seeks to undermine their human rights and not only block reform of the Gender Recognition Act, but strip away the protection it offers altogether. I know how difficult hope can be when that kind of hostility is raining down on you. 2020 must be the year when the pro-equality majority stands together with trans people, challenges the prejudice, and achieves the legal reform they need.

In the face of a Tory majority at Westminster we can be sure that some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in our society will need our support. Gypsy/traveller communities are among those targeted in the Tory manifesto, but people on the receiving end of policies like Universal Credit and the anti-immigrant hostile environment will also need the creativity and determination of the Scottish Government and local services to step in.

Both main UK parties have talked about increasing wages at the bottom end, but the Conservative plan is still based on the age-discrimination of what they call the “national living wage”, which is of course not a living wage at all. This is the party which has been happy to preside over an economy where whole swathes of industry pay poverty wages.

Try planning a festive night out while only using businesses which pay the real Living Wage – across hospitality, leisure and most retail they are almost non-existent. No, you can be sure that whatever the UK Government does on wages, it will leave huge numbers of people behind.

The Brexit-obsessed Conservatives will almost certainly manage to implement their reckless plan to leave the EU within the next few weeks, and will no doubt blame anyone but themselves for every single job that’s destroyed as a result.

Almost as inevitably as the harsh reality of the harm the UK Government will inflict, there can be little doubt that there will also be those in Scotland, including on the pro-independence side, whose response is limited to knowing who to blame.

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Pointing the finger may be justified of course, but it helps nobody. If it’s accompanied by the self-denying ordnance of “we can only solve this once we’re independent” then we will do nothing to benefit those suffering the most immediate effects, and we will do nothing to advance the case for independence either.

If we took that attitude we would earn nobody’s support, and nor would we deserve to.

Independence will be won if we act with courage, creativity and determination not just to claim that a better society is possible, but to strain against every limitation to make it a reality wherever we can.

If we do what we can, and what we must, to build that better society, then independence may follow. If we tell ourselves it must be the other way round, we’ll be stuck not even taking the first step forward.