Coming year will change landscape

Presents have been opened, sprouts have been eaten (or perhaps not) and a few green needles are on the carpet already.

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As we all start counting the cost to our waistlines and our wallets, another Christmas is over.

Whether you treat it as a consumerist binge, a religious festival or a midwinter party, it's a time for taking stock of one year and drawing breath for the next. So I can't help contemplating the ghost of Scotland's Christmas Yet to Come.

By the time we're writing our Christmas cards next year we'll have made one of the most important political choices ever put on a Scottish ballot paper. We'll be surveying a new political landscape, whichever way that decision goes.

If it's a Yes, we'll be into transition mode.

The Scottish Government will be settling down to the welter of practical choices needed to turn independence from an idea into a reality.

The UK Government meanwhile will be preparing for a general election in spring, with Tory Ministers aiming for an overall majority this time and LibDem ones coyly eyeing the jobs pages.

Labour will have their work cut out seeking a majority which can still hold at Westminster after the Scottish MPs are surplus to requirements.

All parties at Holyrood, whether they were for or against independence, will need to adapt to the new reality or risk being left behind.

But even if it's a No vote, the landscape would be changed.

Scotland's dominant political force, defined for decades by the independence cause, would need to figure out what it's for.

Finding agreement across its ranks about the answer to that question would be tricky enough, even before they try and communicate it to the voters.

But for those of us who see the referendum as a moment for Scotland to choose a new political direction, by taking the powers to build a fairer and more sustainable society, the question will be how much can ever be achieved under devolution, especially while the UK Government begins a scrap over Europe.

Either way there will be new challenges and, we must hope, new opportunities.

The biggest dividing line in Scottish politics will finally have been settled, the only way it can be, by the voters. In either scenario one of the big challenges will be finding a way to work together in that new political territory; accepting the democratic results, and healing rifts rather than making them wider.

I want a Yes vote, but whichever way it goes I want to see the country emerge stronger and able to make the most of the new political landscape we'll be entering.

That would require a spirit of Christmas that we rarely see in our politics, but it's long overdue.

Local government

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                Janice Bell                

Janice Bell


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