OK, Christmas has been cancelled (more or less), the British economy is about to fall off a Brexit cliff (more or less) and the physical world is caught between a pandemic and being fried by climate change (both actually). At this point I should really stop writing and pull the covers over my head. Yet there is a lot of reason for optimism in 2020. Here’s my case.

Let’s start with that little green country north of Englandshire. The Scots used to be terribly conservative and dour. Back in 1955, a majority of them voted Tory and did as they were told.

But in 2020 a thumping majority of Scottish women and men insisted on telling exasperated pollsters that they wanted to form their own country and decide their own affairs. No matter how many times the pollsters asked the question, those damned Scotties kept answering Yes to independence. It’s enough to make a BBC announcer eat their microphone.

Take note: during 2020 Scots suddenly and consistently embraced indy – not despite Covid-19 and not despite a looming Brexit, but precisely because of both developments.

In the midst of pandemic chaos and economic crisis, the Scots coolly decided they wanted to take charge of their own destiny as the best way forward.

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They looked at the ludicrous Jacob Rees-Mogg lounging on his green bench at Westminster and decided Scotland deserved better. They watched a witless Boris Johnson flailing out of his political depth and knew that Scots politicians could hardly do worse.

So, amid the unseasonal gloom, let’s take heart that after some 300 years of servility the Scottish people have decided to get off their knees and make their own destiny once again. At long last the Scots have realised there is nobody at home in Number 10 Downing Street but a spoiled, second-rate comedian whose jokes are no longer funny – if they ever were. There is no English authority figure whose permission we need to decide how to run our lives here in Scotland. That is the epiphany we had in 2020.

This new Scottish uppityness has been breaking out all over. For instance, the normally reticent and disciplined membership of the ruling SNP used last month’s party conference to rap the leadership over the knuckles by voting in a new, less pliant national executive committee and internal post-holders. This was not so much a palace coup as a firm reminder to the SNP leadership that the mass membership is not to be taken for granted.

In particular, it was a message to the First Minister that not all members are convinced by her strategy of waiting endlessly for Boris Johnson to sanction a fresh independence referendum. The debate over the necessity for a Plan B for achieving independence remains alive and kicking as we exit 2020. As it should.

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This year also saw Donald Trump rejected at the ballot box – praise be! Of course, that does not mean we’ve seen the last of The Donald. The US Republican Party of yesteryear has been transmogrified permanently into a populist monster. Trump will use it to set up a government in exile and prepare for the US midterm elections in 2022.

Not to mention the next presidential campaign in 2024. Trump senior may not run but expect a family member to fly the populist flag – probably Donald junior and his pushy new girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. The good news is that by 2024 the progressive Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez will have turned 35 years old and thus be eligible to run for the White House.

Meanwhile, though, we should not get over-excited at the Biden presidency. He represents a return to the “normal” neoliberalism of the big US multinational tech monopolies, as opposed to Trump’s America First policies which favour domestic US companies.

Where Biden is different is in his emphasis on “beating” climate change. But even here we need to beware. Biden’s support for taking America back into the Paris Climate Accords has little to do with fighting global warming per se. Rather it is about ensuring America grabs the lion’s share of the market for new technology designed (very hypothetically) to decarbonise the global economy.

To this end, Biden has appointed John Kerry, Obama’s former secretary of state, as his international climate envoy and de facto leading diplomat. Biden and Kerry will turn up in Glasgow next November (pandemic willing) to preach net-zero carbon by 2050 or even 2040. Back in America, of course, the Republican-dominated Senate will veto most of Biden’s domestic green agenda.

But that is hardly the issue. Biden and Kerry want the world to buy into a new “blue” hydrogen economy. This uses absurd amounts of renewable energy wastefully to crack existing natural gas into hydrogen, giving off copious amounts of CO2.

We are promised the latter will be safely buried in the ground, though nobody has done this yet on an industrial scale. A moment’s thought will indicate just how ludicrous, expensive and roundabout a process this madcap scheme actually is. Yet so-called “net-zero” plans are utterly dependent on this bonkers blue hydrogen project, which is being foisted on the world by the big energy companies.

Still, the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow in November is an extraordinarily important event. The world will be on our doorstep which means Scotland can present itself – and act – as an independent nation. That’s another cause for optimism – provided we use COP effectively in our own interests.

I’d suggest that rather than toady to Biden and the blue hydrogen lobby of the big energy companies, Scotland uses the Glasgow event to rally the developing world in a new “International” aimed at subverting the neoliberal (ie Western) growth consensus.

The final cause for optimism is the emergence – faster than anybody could have predicted – of vaccines to combat Covid-19. True, there’s a long way to go when it comes to vaccinating the world. And like any new tech, there are bound to be issues. But the optimistic lesson is that when the human race concentrates collectively on solving a problem – and when profit does not get in the way – then we are bright enough to get an answer.

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I’m not making disembodied science into some fantasy cure all. Rather, I’m arguing that the human race – not God-like figures in laboratory coats – is master of its own destiny if it acts collectively. That, indeed, may be the key lesson of 2020. Which means 2021 should not be the year we return to “normal” but the year we create a better world.

We can start that new beginning here in Scotland. January will see the launch of a new national membership organisation for the independence movement, to give the grassroots a voice and galvanise campaigning.

Independence is not won by parliamentary manoeuvres. It is achieved when a whole people refuses to bow the knee to foreign control. Freedom begins with collective action, not petitions to the oppressor.

Today is the winter equinox, the shortest day of the year. Tomorrow we start the journey to summer sunshine and independence. Be optimistic, Scotland. Now is the day. Now is the hour.