It would be fair to say that 2016 was an exciting, tumultuous and tragic year, in equal measure.
As we start 2017, I have been reflecting on the significant events of the last year, from a personal, national and global perspective.
The first four months of the 2016 were spent campaigning for the Scottish Parliamentary election, which was held in May. In an exciting and hard fought campaign, I was pleased to be able to connect and talk with so many people and businesses in all corners of the Constituency.
The Rutherglen Constituency, which includes Blantyre, was quoted as a seat that was too close to call and attracted both press attention and high profile visits, including the first election time visit to the Constituency by the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.
Being declared the first SNP MSP for Rutherglen in the wee hours of the 6th May was, of course, a great honour. An important step to ensure that I can serve the people of Rutherglen to the best of my ability was the setting up and opening of my new office, in Main Street Rutherglen, in November. I also hold a regular Surgery in Blantyre at 9:30am on the third Friday of the month.
Hot on the heels of the Scottish Parliament elections came the EU Referendum. David Cameron chose to call this referendum to appease the Eurosceptics in the Tory Party, in the immediate aftermath of other national and local elections. He gambled and he lost, then walked away leaving the rest of the country to pick up the pieces!
Scotland voted strongly to remain in the EU However, despite being told during the Independence Referendum that the only way to secure our place in Europe was to vote No, we now face being dragged out of the EU against our wishes.
Since the Brexit vote we have had months of confusion and indecision. Steering a course through this confusion, the only coherent and competent political voice has been Nicola Sturgeon, as she endeavours to ensure that Scotland’s interests are protected in the months and years ahead.
As we were still attempting to get to grips with the fall out and impact of the Brexit vote, the shock wave of the US Presidential Election result hit us.
Despite winning the popular vote by nearly 3 million, Hilary Clinton lost the Electoral College heavily and Donald Trump will be sworn in as the new US President next week.
Given some of the intolerant and offensive statements coming from the Trump camp during the election, it remains to be seen what impact his Presidency will have on the United States domestically and globally. There are certainly a lot of concerned minority groups in America who are fearful for the future, and we already see ripples of concern internationally around some of his recent forays into foreign affairs.
2016, unfortunately, also continued to bring us horrific images from Syria and Yemen, as well as heart rending footage of the suffering endured by migrants fleeing these and other conflicts.
Despite all of this, as we face into 2017, I look forward to the future with hope.
This April Scotland will gain some new powers under the Scotland Act 2016, which the SNP government has pledged to use for the benefit of the many, not the few.
In May Scottish Local Government elections offer the opportunity for positive change at Council level. It will also be the first time that 16 and 17 year olds will be able to vote for local Councillors.
The Scottish Government has also produced the only coherent Brexit plan since the EU referendum last June – Scotland’s Place in Europe. The UK Government response to that proposal in the early weeks and months of 2017 will determine the next stage on Scotland’s journey to self-determination.
I would like to wish all Hamilton Advertiser readers a happy and peaceful 2017 and I look forward to continuing to represent my Blantyre constituents at Holyrood. Please do not hesitate to contact my office if I can assist you in any way.