2020: The most challenging of years

There will be many reviews in the coming weeks, but if people can put up Christmas decorations early, then I can get in now with my thoughts on 2020.

But what can you say about a year that was overcome by Coronavirus?

At the time of writing, some 53,00 people in the UK have lost their lives to COVID-19. Meanwhile, the man with overall responsibility, jokingly tells us he is as “fit as a butcher’s dog” and “bursting with antibodies.” Empathy, has never been his strong point. But looking back, I believe that from the very outset, the UK government has lagged behind the science. From late lockdowns, to an overhyped, centralised and privatised test and trace, to the vast sums spent on companies linked to Tory politicians; and all this delivered with the usual poor messaging. Whatever way you look at it, Johnson’s record is abysmal.

Which brings me on to Scotland. Johnson is extremely unpopular here. His recent outburst on devolution is just another symptom of why we find him so loathsome; and why support for independence is increasing. In sharp contrast, Scotland’s First Minister comes across as measured, more believable and having a whole lot more empathy than anyone in the Westminster government. Continued sniping from the Scottish Tories; and an almost entirely hostile Scottish media, have failed to dent Nicola Sturgeon’s considerable public support

Of course, Brexit is another factor driving support for independence. The year started with the formal end of EU membership (against the wishes of most Scots), and a transition into the unknown. Indeed, with just weeks to go, Johnson still doesn’t know what that future holds. Irresponsible hardly sums it up, but with his Internal Market Bill, he is determined to undermine the current devolution settlement, at the same time clearing a path to break an international agreement that he signed only 12 months ago. 

But before I let my disgust for Johnson get the better of me, 2020 has been difficult at a personal level too. I lost my Mum back in March, only for lockdown to follow, and for work to stop. For months, it was only my amazing partner, our little Westie, and the fabulous Scottish countryside that kept me going. Today I still haven’t much work. But I recognise my good fortune. I have food, a home and a family. There are many others for who 2020 has been much worse. Grief, stress, loneliness, unemployment, poverty, despair – all symptoms of 2020 as the virus continues to take lives (I’m looking at you Boris Johnson) .

Yet alongside this, there is hope and solidarity. The vaccines; the dedication of frontline workers; Captain Tom; the new volunteer networks and response of local charities; community food larders, and so on. Let’s not forget too the tremendous effort of third sector infrastructure organisations. By providing a range of necessary support and coordination, whether it is distibuting grants, providing information hubs, or just speaking out for communities, their work in this pandemic has been vital.

Of course, it was also the year our online world expanded. We’ve turned to Zoom, Joe Wicks and binge-watching Netflix. Things have changed. Sometimes, unexpectedly, like agreeing with recent tweets from Piers Morgan! 

Without doubt this has been the most challenging of years; and while I don’t know if 2020 is the new normal, I can say with certainty that 2020 will never be forgotten.  

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