WHEN previewing 2020’s highlights for this mighty organ, you try and find the ultimate meeting-point between Scottish specifics and a global perspective. That’s not a hard task this year. Glasgow’s hosting of the 26th United Nations’ Climate Change Conference from November 9 to 19 (known as COP26) is a huge deal for Scotland and the city. Around 30,000 delegates (including 200 world-leading politicians, scientists, activists and business people) will descend on the Dear Green Place.

Most experts agree that COP26 is a make-or-break event for the climate crisis. The self-imposed deadline for those countries who accepted that 2015’s Paris agreements were far too modest a set of low-carbon targets is 2020. This conference must kick off a decade in which decarbonisation heads toward net-zero levels.

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Yet the timing and location is highly politicised. The event is officially under the chairmanship of the UK Government – but one whose current post-Brexit leadership looks like relaxing green regulatory standards, in order to cut those precious trade deals.

However these events take place in a Scotland increasingly anxious to show the world how distinct it is from an undercutting and increasingly roguish UK state. Expect a vigorous display of environmental virtue from both Holyrood and Westminster parliaments, who will doubtless already be on edge from a year of constitutional jousting.

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What will the American presence be? That depends on the presidential elections, which will have concluded a week earlier, November 3. We will have gone through a tortuous set of US political processes – we’re beginning Trump’s impeachment process, but we’ll eventually know the Democrat candidate (likeliest between Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders), chosen during the Democratic National Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on July 13 to 16. In between these dates, on September 16, we’ll be dwelling on one of the founding moments of the American project itself – the 400th anniversary of the sailing of the Mayflower, from Plymouth harbour, across the Atlantic to the New World. Its 102 passengers have around 35 million estimated descendants, 10m currently living in the US. Depending on prior events, we may be spared some Trumpeting around this ... And we’ll certainly hear from the Wampanoag Nation, who signed the original treaty with the English settlers. We have a year of dates which will remind us about the collective power of great pop music – and will put that to a global test. It’ll be fifty years since the death of Jimi Hendrix (September 18) and the disbandment of the Beatles (April 10). There will be the usual stunned reckoning from boomers about how far into the past their counter-cultural moment is receding.

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Yet on September 26, they have a chance to rekindle their idealism, with the biggest live music advocacy event ever, called Global Goals Live: The Possible Dream. The main concerts are in New York’s Central Park and Lagos, Nigeria — as well as satellite events in to-be-announced in cities in Latin America, Europe, and Asia – and already feature “star power” (as they put it) like Coldplay, Muse, Alicia Keys, Billie Eilish, Metallica, Pharrell Williams, Idris Elba, Hugh Jackman, and others to come. The aim? To redouble efforts to hit the UN’s 17 global development goals by 2030 (meaning the end poverty, fighting inequality and addressing the urgency of climate change). They also want to increase investment in the 57 poorest nations by $350 billion a year. The eyebrows rise at the amount of mega-corporate buy-in there already is to Global Goals Live (Proctor and Gamble, Cisco, Verizon, Delta Air are just a few). Will this be another massive act of PlanetWashing – a 10-hour spectacle of cosmopolitan virtue, masking the same unchanging operators? Global Goals’ logo uses the same guitar neck symbolism as Live Aid, so the potential for idealism marred by rockstar egotism and financial ineptitude is clearly there. (You can already download your Global Citizen app, if that reassures). But here’s hoping.

The National: Billie EilishBillie Eilish

Scotland has a few massive and unignorable historic dates in 2020 – maybe the biggest being the 700th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Arbroath, April 6 1320. It’s undeniably a declaration of Scottish independence: and at this acute moment, the dispute will be around whether the document truly does assert the primacy of the people over their nobles and rulers.

But in any case, expect the Declaration to be cited as proof of Scotland’s continuous national status, as Johnson’s Brexit policy machine tries to steamroller over such meddlesome differences.

Some of the “Year of...” initiatives that can come down from the Scottish tourism boards can be a little meh-inducing. But 2020 as the year of Scotland’s coasts and waters is a quite brilliant notion – the nation’s infinite variety, and restorative beauty, right there. There will be seaside operas with simulated mermaids, a giant animatronic monster called “Storm” touring the country, and a seaweed festival on the uninhabited island of Martin, near Ullapool (things going as they are, possibly the most attractive escape option in 2020).

The year’s coming movies that National readers may want to get their teeth into might include Micheal Winterbottom’s Greed (February 21), with Steve Coogan as a debauched retail billionaire on his Greek island; Pixar’s Soul (June 19), with Jamie Foxx as a disillusioned musician who literally finds his inspiration again, personified; Christopher Nolan’s Tenet (July 17) promises to mix together “current-day espionage, evolutionary theory and time-travel”; and Denis Villeneuve – director of Arrival and the Blade Runner sequel – takes on the ultimate SF challenge, Frank Herbert’s Dune (November 20).

If you want to turn to the Middle-East for more than the usual stories of crisis and tension, then the coming new Grand Egyptian Museum may be for you. Half of its massive halls will be displaying artefacts from the Tutankhamun era. The hopes are it will rekindle Egypt’s tourist draw, in a country which used to attract 15m a year in 2010, before the upheavals and revolutions.

The National: Tutankhamun exhibition

Alternately, the next World Expo is in Dubai, on October 20, 2020, which is launching a Museum of the Future (while hardly updating its punitive kefala labour laws), and will be the usual showcase of the country’s curious techno-monarchical imagination.

And finally, some of the great games of humanity are kicking off in 2020, from the entertaining to the exterminating. We have a Tokyo Olympics (July 24 to August 9) in which skateboarding, surfing and rock-climbing are being added to the list of sports (and if you’re asking, “why not darts?”, it’s being cued up for Paris 2024). Just behind that (June 12 to July 12) are the football Euros, taking place across 12 cities in the continent, out of which the Scottish team is Not Yet Humped.

But there is maybe one lethal game that Team Scotland could yet happily bow out of, and with great dignity. On March 5, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with a major meeting of the powers taking place in the months after (followed by the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima bomb drop, August 6 1945). The NPT is in trouble: superpowers like the US, Russia and a China are hurriedly developing new medium-range nuclear weapons.

In 2020, will we be closer to a sovereign Scotland that could play its part in non-proliferation, by demanding the removal of Trident weapons from Scottish soil? Much of the year in political Scotland will be taken up with disputes about what rights the Scottish people have to do anything about their fate. But it would be good to be reminded that indy has always been about more than make, tax and spend.

The National: Florence NightingaleFlorence Nightingale

And really, finally, I mean it: this year represents the 200th anniversary of the birth of Florence Nightingale, which has allowed the UN to proclaim this “The Year of The Nurse”. As the son of a midwife, it seems that every year – and every minute of each year – is the year of the nurse. It will be my private joy to daily remember the late Mary Kane, as the supreme and natural nurse, throughout 2020. Have a powerful and significant 12 months yourself.