HAPPY ANNIVERSARY? YES!

It's a bright blue sky round my way, just as it was a year ago. But between these crisp September morns came  an extraordinary shifting of the tectonic plates.  The political landscapes have not so much changed as been re-invented. For those of us who chose to accentuate the positive on September 18th 2014, feelings are inevitably ambivalent.  

It's tough to stand and watch as one of the most heartless and punitive regimes ever to hold sway at Westminster  unblushingly destroys the welfare state, and  cynically punishes the poor, vulnerable and blameless victims of the speculators  for the latter's follies, crimes and misdemeanours. Tough not least because we know a bulwark against that wilful destruction could and would have been built in an independent Scotland.

Yet it's salutary to have witnessed the reaction of the Scottish electorate who clearly determined after the disappointment of the Referendum result, that they would not fall so easily again for the scare tactics of politicians whose tribal instincts dulled their more perceptive senses. I expected little better from the Tories; it was dispiriting to say the least to hear some friends in the Labour camp parrot oven ready scripts from the Treasury.

Obviously many Labour voters voted No for reasons born of  genuine concerns for Scotland's future prospects, or because they perceived an independent Scotland would in some fashion destroy trans national solidarity.  I've never at any time supposed civic nationalism and internationalism to be  mutually exclusive, but those who disagree are entitled to respect and a proper hearing. Scotland is also a broad church!

Yet the wipe out of once impregnable majorities must surely give the new guard in the Labour party both north and south of the border pause for serious thought.  And bring the recognition that  telling your own voters they've got it all wrong is hardly a surefire route to electoral redemption.  When Andrew Neil took charge of The Scotsman for a while he came up with the brilliant strategy of assuring his readership on a daily basis that their long standing commitment to a Scottish parliament was illiterate rubbish and a short cut to "municipal socialism" writ large.

Unsurprisingly the readership began their lengthy impersonation of snow melting off a dyke.  But Mr Neil, like Labour apparatchik John McTernan, are amongst those for whom certainty is a constant visitor. Most of us in the normal course of growing and learning adapt our thinking  to changing circumstance. Question and test our previous assumptions;  set our theories against different realities.  And what has befallen Labour in Scotland is painful proof that death is the alternative to adaption.

Having said which it's important that both generally and in next year's Scottish elections we find a diverse parliament with a talented opposition.  It would not be healthy for the country or the SNP to drift into the complacency likely to be born of any de facto one party state.  So we need Kezia Dugdale's troops to comprise the feisty rather than the feart.  We need Ruth Davidson to prove that there is life in her party beyond the platitudinous David Mundell in the wholly redundant Scotland Office. We need Patrick Harvie to  garner enough votes to bring more  colleagues from the list, and Willie Rennie to resuscitate  the Lib Dem rump successfully.

And we need a First Minister who has been remarkably sure footed to stay that way, ignoring the siren voices of some of her more exuberant new colleagues whilst continuing to tune into the mood and inclinations of the wider electorate. Losing one Referendum was unfortunate, losing a second through mistiming would be little short of disastrous.  Especially for those of us keen to still be around when a fully functioning independent nation is re-born.  

It has become fashionable amongst  some of the commentariat to dismiss Nicola Sturgeon's administration as a right wing sheep in liberal clothing. Their mantra is that she talks left but acts centre right. That her deputy and Finance Secretary is Mr Pinstripe. This tells us rather more about her critics than about her government.

All of us have some concerns about some policy issues - it would be a weird voter outside of China who felt able to say their government was entirely wise and wonderful. But the direction of travel is one with which I feel mostly comfortable - most especially in areas like health where, for all its manifest problems - there is no suggestion of marketisation. Equally while there are educational challenges as yet unmet, the founding principles of the Curriculum for Excellence smack much more of tomorrow's priorities than the retro script being endlessly re-clycled in England. (Though personally I mourn the return of testing.)

But let's remember that this is still a country which views education spending as an investment, and where no Scottish student is saddled with tens of thousands of debt from student fees.

And, most of all, I celebrate the unambiguous opposition to Trident renewal, with which, I suspect, many Labour candidates agree.

So where stands Scotland one year on from its electric moment?  I would argue that we have managed to harness that wonderful enthusiasm in a variety of imaginative ways.  Women for Independence  have morphed into a driving force behind all manner of important community issues and were pivotal in the campaign to reverse the wrong headed notion of building a big new women's prison instead of smaller localised units.

The electorate as a whole, on both sides of the Referendum divide, are still engaged in passionate debate. Some see this as a failure to put the arguments to bed. Rather I view it as proof positive that Scotland has become a different nation in the course of 12 brief months.  For many people the independence issue has become a question of when not whether. And how not why.

I'll happily raise an anniversary glass to that thought.