THE October week now behind us and the clocks on the cusp of going back an hour, we really are into the business end of the year as far as the City Council goes.

There’s a lot of heavy lifting to be done this side of spring 2018. But the arrival of the long dark nights is also the backdrop for one of my personal highlights of the year.

This week we launch the programme for this year’s Celtic Connections Festival and it’s quite a milestone year. Now 25-years-old, Celtic Connections has grown from humble beginnings to become a leading light in Scotland’s cultural calendar and has grown into an internationally renowned festival.

As something of a ‘folkie’ I should declare an interest. Celtic Connections is my Glastonbury, my Proms, my T In The Park and Fringe all rolled into one.

It generates expenditure approaching £6million in the city at a time of year when many business, especially in the hospitality sector, go into a post-Christmas hibernation. Once all the organiser costs have been taken into account, it has an economic of around £4million and is estimated to generate over 100 full-time equivalent jobs, the majority of which are in Glasgow.

Crucially, this wonderful 18-day festival welcomes artists from across the world to Glasgow stage. In the January gloom our city becomes a destination for music lovers from across the country and indeed the globe. It really is an advertisement for our vitality and internationalism.

There is though something of a shadow hanging over this year’s event. At the weekend the Musicians’ Union warned that Brexit will herald an era of “disastrous decline” for all our flagship festivals. It warns that leaving the European Union will place restrictions on European musicians visiting the, while the careers of Scottish musicians will be damaged by the limits put on them in terms of working across Europe. Leaving the single market will be hugely damaging for Scotland’s businesses, our universities, our trade and jobs. It will also be a hammer blow to our cultural life.

Celtic Connections has always been about collaboration, about musicians from diverse styles and backgrounds coming together in the same place. Brexit is the antithesis of this.

As was stated at the weekend it “sends out completely the wrong message to musicians from Europe who make a living in Scotland”.

Each year, Celtic Connections partners with a country to help create new international links and advance opportunities for their musicians and for 2018 Ireland has been selected.

The focus on partnerships and our choice of partner couldn’t be more apt, for a host of reasons.

Van Morrison, Clannad, The Chieftans and Sharon Shannon have all graced the stage at Celtic Connections over the past quarter of a century and this year emerging Irish artists will be given exposure in front of attending promoters, festival directors and record label representatives.

And for an event like Celtic Connections, Ireland is the most natural of partners. We have strong cultural links, a shared passion for traditional music and indeed Celtic connections in our traditions, language, poetry and storytelling.

But we also have rapidly accelerating mutual social and economic agendas, and, as the First Minister remarked on her recent visit to Dublin, a shared interest in ensuring the growth of our domestic economies and the international market we operate in is matched by a focus on inclusion.

It’s crucial our economic, social and indeed cultural policies are successful and sustainable. Celtic Connections certainly lends itself to those ambitions. Brexit does not.

A FAIR and equal society underpins our approach to the governance of Glasgow. They are the principals which have guided so many of us into the world of politics and are the goals we strive for in all we do.

But every so often it’s good to remind ourselves of the fundamentals. Since I last wrote we have had both Challenge Poverty Week and Hate Crime Awareness Week and it was encouraging to see both events receive attention. And credit to the Evening Times for the giving both campaigns the prominence it did.

Glasgow faces greater deprivation challenges than anywhere in Scotland and every area of the City Government’s policy is influenced by it. In addition to our manifesto pledges, which next month become the formalised plans detailing our commitments and priorities for the next five years, City Treasurer Allan Gow recently unveiled our ambition to eradicate child hunger in the city. Over the coming months he lead on how we roll out the universal provision of free meals for all school-age children during all school holidays. Allan will also take forward the City Council’s plans to take on period poverty. Combined with the national Programme for Government we will be doing our share in challenging poverty.

Similarly there will be no let-up in our efforts to face down discrimination and hate crime in all its forms. Glasgow is a city of incomers. We have become a city which prides itself on inclusion, on tolerance and understanding. We now live in one of the most diverse cities on these islands, where irrespective of cultural background, ethnicity, gender, or ability people pride themselves on being Glaswegian. We celebrate inclusion and diversity.

But we still have an issue with hate crime and we all have a responsibility to stand up against it and support the victims. It is extremely important that we create an atmosphere where victims feel able to report incidents. Hate Crime Awareness Week gives us that platform to remind ourselves that we will not tolerate any crime motivated by prejudice or hate against a person because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, disability or transgender identity.