May I wish you all all the best for the upcoming year.
It promises to be another seismic one in Scotland, the latest in a series of defining years. In 2014, we had the referendum on independence. All changed; changed utterly. We lost, of course, and independence was delayed, but it immediately became clear that it was something of a Pyrrhic victory for the London parties. 2015 was the year that would go down in history as the year the once-monolithic Scottish Labour party was smashed, forever, never to be resurrected. The political careers of some of the most hated loyalist lickspittles - Jim Murphy, Anas Sarwar, Maggie Curran, Ian Davidson - ended in humiliation and ignominy.
2016 has even more at stake. If 2014 was about realignment and 2015 about revenge, 2016 is about remaking Scotland.
It should, all things being equal, be the year that Scotland's democratic structures move firmly into the control of pro-independence organisations. For the first time, the Scottish Parliament will re-elect a majority of pro-independence deputies.
This year, Scottish Labour will be starved of funds from a London HQ which was insulted, stupidly, by branch manager "Kez" Dugdale. With only one in five people considering voting for Scottish Labour, and unable to get their message out through posters or leaflets (in their former Glasgow heartland, they struggle to number three figures in terms of activists), their only chance of getting their message across is through Dugdale's appearances on televised debates.
However, Dugdale comes across as a very unsympathetic figure on such debates. Shrill and bitter, with facial expressions resembling a 14-year-old who has been told they must do their homework before they go out to play, for Dugdale's TV appearances to be the only contact voters have with Scottish Labour during the election campaign is disastrous for their chances.
20% of the vote may well be the high water mark, given the unlikeability and inexperience of their "leader". Scottish Labour will be competing with the Conservatives for second place - but their sense of arrogance and entitlement will lead them to try to fight the election against the SNP instead.
Kezia Dugdale will be forced out as "leader" should Scottish Labour not emerge as the largest Unionist party, or should she fail to win her constituency. An explicit, personal rejection of Dugdale by her own prospective constituents will render her a lame-duck leader, vulnerable in the extreme to challenge by the Corbynite faction.
My gut feeling is that the bruising experience she is about to undergo in the next five months, coupled with the growing realisation that she is - in her own words - "not up to the job" will mean she will quit of her own accord anyway.
Her Better Together buddy, Ruth Davidson, is also likely to go backwards both in terms of seats and votes. However, Davidson demonstrates the value of having an early career making contacts and friendships in the media instead of the Dugdale pathway of Student>Work for Student Union>Work for bitter Unionist MSP>Be bitter Unionist MSP. Davidson appears untouchable in the Scottish press regardless of how bad the electoral results were. Indeed, following the worst result in the history of the Scottish Conservatives just last May, she was praised by all quarters. It is, incidentally, a reflection on the Scottish media that so many of its contributors are Conservative supporters given only about one in ten Scots are. The over-representation of Conservatives in the Scottish media helps deflect any criticism of Davidson, who is, after all, one of their own.
The disconnect between the electorate and the print media is such that the circulation of the Unionist newspapers is plummeting. The Daily Record, The Scotsman and The Herald are in various stages of collapse, with the latter only being kept afloat by its independence-supporting stablemates The National and the Sunday Herald. The response of the troika's journalists to the collapse of confidence in them has been humility and a recalibration of their offerings, designed to reflect the new Scotla...ah, no, it hasn't. It has been to shriek ever more loudly in rage that prospective and former readers i) don't listen to what they say; ii) don't trust what they say if they do; and iii) don't vote in the "correct" fashion. The rage-filled outbursts of Herald political editor Magnus Gardham in an ill-judged rant over Christmas, followed by the social media meltdown of his minion David Leask - who, at one point, described Gardham as "a genius" - will have done their cause no good at all. Evermore, our journionists berate the electorate from their lofty position, seemingly failing to realise that their behaviour, and, at times their open bias, is not a result of the Scottish public's contempt for them, but a cause.
It would be little surprise, given the fine fiscal margins and the rate at which readership is collapsing, if one of our fine organs was to cease publication this year. Perhaps the most vulnerable is The Scotsman, the ironically-named Edinburgh-based paper which has resorted to giving away thousands of free copies to keep advertisers interested. Its owners, the Johnston Press, regard the paper as the jewel in its crown, but a loss of £144m may see sentimentality discarded in favour of dividends.
Otherwise, the Mirrorisation of the Daily Record is continuing apace. Only the first few pages, and some of the sport, of the Record is now written in Glasgow. The increasingly hysterical political tone of the paper, with its strident Loyalism cloaked in a pretence of disinterested neutrality, is winning few friends and fewer readers to replace the geriatric Labour supporters which comprise the paper's core readership. While the demise of The Scotsman would be little surprise, the demise of the Record would be. However, a paper cannot fight against its target audience forever, and - just as it switched from the Tories to Labour when Scotland's political culture changed - it would be little surprise if its owners, trying to reset the paper's relationship with Scotland, quietly performed a reshuffle of its editorial staff and columnists.
The Liberals managed to hang onto their only MP in a humiliating court case which will have cemented the grudging tradition of Liberal-voting in the Northern Islands into a contemptuous hatred of the party. They surely would have preferred it had the disgraced former Gauleiter Alistair Carmichael resigned from the Commons on the tacit understanding a Lords seat would come his way in the near future. In Orkney, they have a majority of just 868 over the National party, with the complicating factor of a second-placed independent. In Shetland, they have a majority of 3.328 over the SNP (1.617 over the second-placed Independent candidate) - but last time round, the Liberal candidate was the party leader who was, as yet, untainted by his involvement with Better Together nor his support for his disgraced colleague Carmichael.
It seems inconceivable that the Liberals will hang onto either of these constituencies. They may return one or two MSPs on the List, but they will never play a major role in Scottish politics again, and certainly not in the new Parliament.
Willie Rennie will lose his seat, praise be to God and the angels.
The Greens performed particularly poorly in the last Holyrood election, and despite the personal popularity of Pat Harvie, may not do overly well in this one. At the moment, there appears to be anything from 5-9 Green deputies heading to Holyrood, but my suspicion is that when they get to that polling booth and have already voted SNP on the Constituency ballot, Yes voters will waver from backing the Greens at the last minute, even if they go into the booth fully intending to vote for them. I wouldn't be at all surprised if the Greens only got three MSPs. They may, however, pick up several thousand extra votes given the success of their socialist co-leader, Maggie Chapman, in a leadership contest in autumn. Disaffected Labour voters, as well as socialist voters left without a home as a result of the suicide of the SSP, may very well be tempted to go Green.
It will come as no shock to anyone when I suggest that this election will be a landslide victory for the National party. The scale of their victory could be such that the two surviving Unionist parties, Scottish Labour and the Conservatives, begin talks about an electoral pact for subsequent elections similar to that sometimes seen between the Unionist parties in the north of Ireland when they sense that they can beat a Nationalist challenger or incumbent by combining DUP and UUP votes.
The retrenchment of voters into their Unionist/Yes camps will squeeze out the smaller parties. There will be no repeat of the Rainbow Parliament, with the only minor parties being represented being the aforementioned Greens and Liberals. Given the success of the independence referendum and its renewed public profile, this election represented the best chance of returning SSP deputies to Holyrood. The party's suicide, having chosen not to stand in this election after being infiltrated by SWP types in a
rigged completely free and fair vote in which every member had their chance to vote and only bona-fide members were permitted to vote Conference vote, means that Scotland will be one of the few legislatures in Europe to have no radical Left deputies.
The SWP's vehicle, Rise, will gain zero MSPs, mainly because nobody knows who they are and those who do don't like them. On the other side of the spectrum, the fascist Ukip will not taint Holyrood either. They've never come close to getting any elected representation (with the exception of the time the SNP's ludicrous candidate selection made the Left unable to vote for them, and let the gluttonous neo-fascist David Coburn sneak through the middle of them and the Greens) in Scotland, and the internicine warfare in the party will repel prospective voters. At any rate, the constituency Ukip seeks to appeal to - Orangemen, bigots and casual racists - are either Labour voters, councillors or MSPs in Scotland.
With Nicola Sturgeon finally in possession of her own mandate to govern, we may see a more radical reshuffle, and - I hope - a much more radical programme for Government than we have hitherto witnessed. In the Third Parliament, the SNP was inclined to timidity given its minority status, and in the Fourth Parliament to avoid rocking the boat ahead of the independence referendum. With no such referendum in the Fifth Parliament and a comfortable majority, there can be no such excuse now. I expect a committed approach towards land and social reform, a renewed approach to Trade Union and workers' rights, and a ceaseless fight against austerity.
In Europe, the radical Left had a proud 2015. We took over the government of Greece and broadly retains the support of her people as evidenced by a second general election victory as well as the No vote in the Fiscal Referendum. We hold the balance of power in Spain and in Portugal, and briefly held it in Turkey.
2016 promises to be just as good. State elections in Germany could give Die Linke a hold on some pretty important levers ahead of the Federal elections next year.
A general election in Ireland looks likely to leave Sinn Féin holding the balance of power, with Gerry Adams a likely candidate for Tánaiste in a Fianna Fáil-Sinn Féin coalition government. The Left alliance is also polling extremely well, with both the Alliance and SF highly regarded amongst the urban electorate for its fight against water charges and the Fine Gael-Labour austerity regime.
In Portugal, there is a presidential election which they have kindly scheduled as a birthday present to me. Previously, the presidency was not thought to have any substantial powers, until the general election last year saw Aníbal Cavaco Silva appearing to forget that i) it wasn't the Estado Novo; and ii) he isn't Salazar. Cavaco Silva, of course, was the president notorious for receiving an election result in which the conservatives lost to the Left - who had a majority in the Assembly of the Republic - and appointing a conservative prime minister anyway. In a surprise development, the Left used its majority to win a vote of No Confidence. Anyhoo, the radical Left candidate is Marisa Matias MEP, who only meets the age requirement by five years, of the Bloco de Esquerda. At present, she is polling only about 8%, but no poll has been taken since the constitutional crisis which swept the Left to power. Last year, we achieved a radical Left government. This year, we may achieve a radical Left head of State.
There are also elections in Wales, which I hope Plaid will win but Labour will win; in London, which I hope Labour will win but the Conservatives will win; in Romania, which the social democrats will win; and in America, where capitalism will win.
The Spanish constitutional crisis must also be resolved in the early part of this year: to recap, the conservatives got more seats than any other party, with Rajoy remaining acting prime minister, but with no majority. The Left, Catalan and Basque nationalists, and social democrats, which together can outvote the conservatives, will vote against him remaining president. King Philip will then appoint another president (probably Pedro Sánchez of the social democrats), who will then not have enough votes to stay in office because all the people who voted against the other guy being president will vote against him being president because he won't let them have their own countries of which they can be president. So there will be no government, and a fresh general election, producing the same result, and a fresh constitutional crisis. It's going to be rare fun.
The chaos in Madrid will see Catalunya independent by Christmas.
Novorossija will declare independence from the fascist regime in Kiev. It will be backed by Moscow, which will not seek to reintegrate the DNR and LNR into Russia proper at this stage.
The knock-on effect of the Spanish constitutional crisis will be that there is no prospect of Madrid being able to agree to David Cameron's renegotiations before summer, which leaves the prospect of an In/Out EU referendum bleak for this year. Which is a bit of a shame, as the prospect of Scottish Labour, yet again, out campaigning and leafleting with their Tory friends would have been the final nail in their coffin.
In sport, England will win the European Championship, Bayern Munich the European Cup, and Borussia Dortmund the Europa League. Wales will win the Six Nations. Celtic will win the Premier Division and the League Cup. Hearts will win the Scottish Cup. Hibernian will win the Second Division. Scotland will already be out of contention to qualify for the 2018 World Cup by the time 2017 comes round.