WHAT can we expect from 2022? I’m tempted to say: “more of the same”. But that would be too fatalistic. The future is not yet written. We can change things for the better, here in Scotland and abroad.

But to have any chance of succeeding we must first understand the forces at work in the coming year.


SURPRISE: COVID is not going to disappear. My swift look through the scientific websites reveals a scary lack of predictions regarding the pandemic in 2022 – which suggests nobody in charge has a scooby about what happens next.

This could be the year we finally accept global pandemics are here to stay, at least under our crazy neoliberal insistence on unmanaged free trade. Conclusion: the holiday and entertainment industries will have to change permanently. Perhaps this retreat from mass escapism could mean a return to a more human-scale conviviality.


The National: Chinese President Xi Jingping

IT will be a year of international crises but (barring accidents) none of the major powers actually wants war. Call this the age of super-brinkmanship tempered by political cowardice.

President Biden started his recent conversation with Putin by saying he wouldn’t commit American troops if Russia invaded Ukraine. And I can’t see Biden declaring war on China over Taiwan.

The real problem is we are back in a 19th-century era of national ego that is – unlike the original Cold War – unrestrained by nuclear calculation. So no invasion of Ukraine or Taiwan… this year. But Iran will get the bomb.


THE big news story of 2022 will not be Covid but the economy. After a year of prevarication, the Bank of England now admits that inflation is here to stay. In fact, prices are rising at their fastest in a generation – in roughly 7% a year on the RPI scale (which includes housing costs). Two or three years of that and you will see your living standards plummet. Then add in the highest tax bite in 30 years.

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The real question is what inflation and falling living standards do to business confidence and investment. We have already seen the Bank of England bump up interest rates, which is akin to pouring petrol on a fire. There is now a toxic combination of higher business borrowing costs and falling consumer demand awaiting the global economy in 2022.

At some point investors may panic and start selling shares. This usually peaks around October, when billionaire investors come back from their foreign holidays in the Caribbean, or (these days) outer space.


The National: 25/09/2021 Picture Duncan McGlynn +447771370263. Around 5,000 people from Independence group All Under One Banner marched though Holyrood Park in Edinburgh, Scotland towards the Scottish Parliament to protest for Scottish Independence.  ©Duncan

THE year 2022 will pass with absolutely no second independence referendum. The FM will be coy about the prospects but will warn sternly that there can be no campaign while Covid remains.

That should see out next year nicely. The real political fun, however, will be in May at the council elections. If there is one obvious failure of SNP administrations since 2007 it has been in local government. Holyrood has been cash strapped by Westminster and only kept the NHS afloat by raiding town hall coffers.

This could have been avoided (to a degree) if councils had been allowed to raise more of their own funds. But an almost endless freeze on council tax (allied to a failure to reform local finance) put paid to that … until now. Expect council administrations to bump up taxes a bit next year but go for broke in 2023.

Meanwhile, the May elections will be the first real test of the SNP’s strategy of talking referendums but waiting for Godot.


BORIS JOHNSON has proved a spectacular incompetent as PM: lazy, under-briefed, a serial fibber and surrounded by sycophants. These days John Major looks like a sage in comparison, which is saying something.

But 2022 will see Boris and Carrie remain at Number 10. The reason is twofold. First, the Conservatives are now split deeply into warring ideological blocs: libertarians, northern Red Wallers, traditionalists, and a phalanx of new-wave opportunists who back Boris because he needs them to exercise power. And second because there is no candidate to replace Johnson this side of the next general election.

Expect another year of incompetent fumbling, higher taxes, reckless spending, political scandals and fresh crises. We are now living in an English Weimar Republic. How it ends – and end it will in spectacular fashion – is anybody’s guess. Time for the Scottish lifeboat, anyone?


The National: Donald Trump speaks during a rally

PRESIDENT “Sleepy Joe” Biden’s approval rating has tanked since the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the rise of inflation. As a result, Donald Trump’s lead over the 79-year-old president has widened to six points. Trump has not officially announced another White House bid but has consistently hinted at the possibility. Trump’s lead over lacklustre Vice-President Kamala Harris is even wider. Expect 2022 to be the year The Donald announces his return.

But before the presidential elections in 2024 comes next November’s Congressional mid-terms. The big prize is the Senate, currently split 50-50. The Republicans have had a strong showing in recent polls, though they have more seats coming up in November compared to the Democrats.

Still, the odds have to be on big Republican gains unless the newly conservative Supreme Court scraps American women’s right to abortions and touches off the start of a new civil war. Regardless, I think the future of the United States as a historical entity is numbered and 2022 could begin the countdown.


The National: CO2 emissions drop in Oxfordshire

COP26 in Glasgow solved nothing. CO2 emissions continue to climb year on year and will do so for a while to come. That suggests – even on optimistic predictions – that global temperatures will rise above the critical 1.5-degree level. The time has come to stop relying on governments to resolve matters and instead create an organised, global public movement to resist anthropomorphic climate change. Scottish activists could take the lead in creating such a mass movement.


THE global powers – not to mention a host of small gangster regimes – are spending an inordinate amount of blood and treasure on clandestine cyber attacks on each other’s IT networks. Criminal internet ransom attacks have increased by two-thirds since 2019. Last year saw major successful hacking of America’s biggest oil pipeline system, some of the largest insurance companies in the US and EU, and of our own Highlands and Islands University. My bet for the next cyber confrontation is a Russian attack on Ukrainian power and communications systems. The Pentagon has already infiltrated US Cyber Command personnel into Ukraine, raising the potential for tit-for-tat disruptions, including in western countries. Don’t be surprised if your lights go out.


DECEMBER will see the Fifa World Cup take place in Qatar. Despite this being an autocracy that exploits immigrant Asian workers (hundreds of whom died in building the football stadiums needed to hold the event) don’t expect a western diplomatic boycott. Or am I being cynical?

Prediction: Cameroon beat Portugal in final. No predictions about the rugby Six Nations – still keeping my fingers crossed the tournament will actually take place.

And a good New Year to you all.