The week in between Christmas and New Year always seems like a rather odd one to me. But while we sit here in limbo between one year and the next, waiting for the sun to set on 2015 so we can get on with what 2016 has to offer, it seems like the perfect time to take a look back on a somewhat turbulent and unpredictable year.
First up is one of twenty fifteen’s biggest acts, the general election. Despite opinion polls suggesting that there would be no outright winner, out came the shy Tories, bringing with them a Conservative majority and a very happy David Cameron, with the party winning 330 seats. However, it has not necessarily been the winning party that has had the greatest effect on politics in the United Kingdom this year. Rather, it was arguably ‘insurgent’ parties such as the SNP and UKIP that shaped the discussions in the run up to the election and have both continued to have an unmistakable and lasting impact on the national political landscape since. Much unlike the climate during the previous general election, the UK is now fast becoming a country that is largely shaped by the pursuit of specific issues rather than by old party allegiances.
One of the major issues of this year has been surrounding two irrevocably linked and yet unmistakably separate issues of immigration and refugees. The difference between an economic immigrant, who has chosen to leave their home and resettle in another country, and a refugee, who has been forced out of their home and is fleeing a war-torn country, is an important one. It is a difference that I hope will be remembered in 2016, along with an appropriate level of compassion.
On a more positive note, and in an undeniable landmark for the ongoing uphill struggle for equality, the Right Reverend Libby Lane became the first female bishop in England. Later on in the year in Ireland, 62 per cent of people voted ‘Yes’ in the referendum on same-sex marriage which was an arguably huge moment for the LGBTQ community, given that Ireland as a country is perceived as practicing religious conservatism. I hope that this coming year will bring with it more steps towards meaningful equality in our country and others.
Back in Westminster, and in one of the biggest political moments of the year, Jeremy Corbyn shocked us all by becoming leader of The Labour Party in September with almost 60 per cent of the vote; steering Labour towards a more pacifist and socialist future, and potentially dividing his party in the process. Indeed, this year seems to have been one that was somewhat characterised by divisiveness.
The harrowing events of the Charlie Hebdo attacks at the beginning of the year and months later the terrorist massacres in Paris which killed 130 people have jolted our small country, and Western culture as a whole. These events and others like them have provoked a vast array of responses, many of which have proved our resilience and our ability to stand up to fear and hatred. Others have meant more violence in the form of new military air strikes which have now begun against ISIS in Syria, following a day-long debate in the Commons.
With such a chaotic year behind us, it seems important that we take a step back, take a deep breath and gain some much needed perspective; and what better way to do that than by following in Major Tim Peake’s footsteps and taking a look at the year from space (courtesy of Reuters):
Still, with elections to the Scottish Parliament and a national referendum looking likely to loom its head in 2016, it will be interesting to see what this coming year will bring and if it will be as volatile as its predecessor. One thing’s for sure though, by this time next year the future of our country could be dramatically altered; whether that be in terms of Scotland’s position within the United Kingdom, or the UK’s position within (or indeed, without) the European Union.
Image courtesy of Darren Foreman via Flickr