As I sat down on Hogmanay, I saw on a friends social media page a wonderful passage which came from the letters of the poet Ted Hughes It reaffirmed what had been playing in my mind for weeks now….

‘The only calibration that counts is how much heart people invest, how much they ignore their fears of being hurt or caught out or humiliated. And the only thing people regret is that they didn’t live boldly enough, that they didn’t invest enough heart, didn’t love enough. Nothing else really counts at all.’

2016 has not been a successful year for socialists and the left. Not only in Scotland but throughout the world. The ascension of the right and far right in the Scottish elections, the elevation of a new unelected Conservative Prime Minister and the election of Donald Trump as US president. The ongoing assault on homes and families in war torn regions of the world, not only in well documented areas like Syria and Yeman, but also the purge and further authoritarian measures in Turkey and the rise of the far right in Europe and further afield.

2016 has seen a battle rage not between the ruling class and the impoverished, or the left and the right but by socialists and social democrats. The left and the far left. Egos have driven agendas while homes and communities have been left without care or support. Abandoned and left to the dogma of British nationalism leading to further inequality and democratic abandonment.

This distortion must be resolved before we can even begin to fight back in 2017. I for one accept just as much responsibility as any for a failure to unite and respond to the challenges we face in our society today. Make no mistake the challenges we face are enormous. They begin in our homes, our communities and within our class. A million people again have used food banks this year. Living costs are rocketing and poverty wages prevail. Children have a greater chance of living in poverty in the UK than at any time in the last 50 years. Most working class people live in fear of their next energy bill or being able to afford ever increasing rents. The prospect of todays generations buying their own home seem impossible, while for some they are unable to have a home at all.For far to many, often hope was all that was left and now this is light is being extinguished.

I still believe in an independent Scotland, not only as an avenue for greater prosperity and equality in Scotland, but also so that we can become a shining beacon in an island, a continent and indeed a world that is becoming increasingly invaded by hate and fear. But I do not support independence blindly, I wont accept an independent Scotland that is UK light. This is not what I, nor thousands of others campaigned at the last referendum for. I believe in a fair and just society, one which takes care of those who most need our support and help. I believe we must eradicate the threat of nuclear weapons, to ensure that the rich pay their share, that big business not only pay their tax but are responsible employers. That vital services in transport, and energy should belong to the people which it serves. One which cannot morally pay poverty wages to some and reward others for failure with millions of pounds and medals of honour because of their job title. This was the independent Scotland I campaigned for before and it is the same that I will continue to work towards.

A New Year brings with it new hope and also new opportunities. These opportunities can be used to continue to embolden old feuds and arguments or it can provide us an opportunity to extend a hand of forgiveness and begin to repair divisions. Today I use this New Year as a new opportunity to extend the hand of friendship and forgiveness to those who I share so much in common with. I hope this can be the beginning of a better understanding. Let us work together where we are united. Socialists, social democrats, nationalists and anyone else that share a common cause. It is time for all of us to realise there is more that unites us than divides us. That what we agree on, we can work together on and what we don’t we can discuss and debate in a respectful and honorable way. I know in 2016 I did not achieve that. This is my mission in 2017.

I, you, we… all of us have the capability and power to create a fairer, just and more equal society, a greener, prosperous world for our children and future generations. We must accept that we might all never unite under one flag or one banner or one party. But we all care about a great deal of issues that are not mutually exclusive to each other. It is through the strength of our unity in our causes that will allow us to not only fight back but to prevail.

Yes we enter 2017 in dark times, but as Tennyson once said….

‘ And out of darkness came the hands that reach thro’ nature, moulding men.’

I look forward to working with you all to finding the light. It will not be easy nor easily achieved but it is a battle we must all face in order to leave a brighter beacon behind.