Blog #12 Looking back on 2016

Blog #12 Thinking back to 2016

The dust has settled, two days into 2017, so I wanted to think back a bit to some key moments in 2016.

WRITING

I did more to progress my writing as a career path in November/December 2016 than I had in my entire life before that point. Writing in 2016 went from something I did at the weekends or when I got home to unwind to the first steps of a career. From setting up this blog to talk about writing to publishing my first work, I have made some pretty big steps. You will be surprised at how much you can advance in only a month or two.

I feel really fired up for it all, big thanks to everyone who follows and likes this blog, it means a lot. Never hesitate to drop me a message or comment if you want to bounce writing ideas off each other.

Linked in to writing this year, my reading went through the roof. There was a bunch of classics I was meaning to read for so long and when there was a big sale in penguin classics- bang. I don’t think because a book has the title of a classic makes it better than anything else. Kill Your Friends and Miami Purity were better reads than The Old Man and the Sea, I don’t feel pressured to change that opinion, it is how I feel.

As I have said before, if you write for fun, that’s great, I have done that for years and found it very fulfilling, but I want to be full time writer now. 2016 was a big year for me in terms of personal discovery.

SCOTLAND

The political situation in Scotland got very dire in 2016. I won’t pretend issues in Scotland are arguably as important or have the level of global interest as what is happening in the United States and other places but I live here, so it feels like it has far more of an impact on my life as opposed to who is president or not.

For those not in Scotland, I will give you the quick version.

  • Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have devolved parliaments who can legislate on education, healthcare, etc. We also send Members of Parliament to the overall United Kingdom parliament in London which has many reserved powers such as defence, international relations and macroeconomic policy.
  • The aim of this is that our devolved parliament handle more day to day affairs but Scots still have a voice in UK-wide decisions which will impact us.
  • The Scottish National Party (SNP) wants Scotland to leave the United Kingdom and become an independent nation.
  • They won a majority and launched an independence referendum in 2014.
  • They were defeated in the referendum, most Scots wanted to stay part the UK.
  • In an unrelated referendum not long after, the UK overall votes to leave the European Union
  • Tension is caused because most these votes came from England, the other parts of the UK wanted to stay in the European Union.
  • Seizing on this, the SNP have said this is justification for another independence referendum.

Makes your head spin doesn’t it? Haha devolved parliaments, Westminster, supranational organisations like the EU, two referendums, Brexit. Good grief!

What annoys me though is while all the politicians are playing their games, our National Health Service is falling apart and our education system got its worst ever ranking. All this arguing over the constitutional question and independence is distracting the parliament from the real issues.

People seem to be getting a bit sick of it though, recently the SNP went from a majority government to a minority one, showing a clear decline in popularity. Again, last civics lesson, here a government can be a majority or a minority government. A majority government means your party has 51% of the seats in parliament and can push through whatever laws you want, because the other parties can’t outvote you. A minority government means you are the largest party but don’t have the numbers to push through whatever you want. Eg- SNP have 40% of the seats, Conservative 30%, Labour 10%, Lib Dems 10%, Greens 10%. The SNP are the largest party in parliament but if they propose a law, it can be struck down if everyone votes against it. Therefore, in minority governments, you generally need more consensus to get laws passed. Many people prefer minority governments, arguably the whole proportional voting Additional Member System encourages this, because the government in charge has to be more conciliatory and actually engage the opposition parties. If you are in a majority, you can steamroll over any dissenting voices.

Whether or not you want Scotland to leave the UK, I think it is important that the government is doing its day job and that doesn’t seem to be happening here. It isn’t glamorous or exciting but the day to day grind of running a country needs to be done and it seems to have been thrown on the back burner.

We had a referendum, there was bitter division and soul searching but we all cast our vote. Now we are being told “nah, we didn’t like that answer, do it again,” it was meant to be once in a lifetime. I saw people fall out over the referendum which really did split the nation in half. Fortunately, my own group of friends, which was split between Yes and No voters, remained intact but not everyone was so lucky and even we had a few arguments.

People talk about the rise of populism and post truth as if it is a new thing, I saw it here during the first referendum in 2014. The SNP made claims that oil would pay for all our costs in setting up a new nation, we would retain our EU membership- none of these were based on solid fact, they even tried to block a public information request to see where these claims had come from. Opinion and emotion became more important than actual facts. Post truth was the word of the year in 2016 but everyone here saw that ugly trend when it was still in its infancy.

Seems a recurring theme in Scottish history, we are always so divided and at each other’s throats!

In my opinion, we had a referendum and voted to stay in the UK. The UK as a whole made the decision to leave the EU and we need to accept that. We need some unity! For god’s sake I have voted in two referendums in my comparatively short life. It is important we move on to keep the economy ticking over.

A quite complex situation but hopefully I made it a bit simpler to understand. It gets even crazier when you consider the Scottish islands, some of whom like Orkney don’t want to part of Scotland OR the UK!

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/02/orkney-explore-independence-scotland-uk-following-brexit/

 

BANKING

Wow, and you thought the politics bit was dry haha. Honestly, I find banking interesting but I am aware that puts me in a bit of a minority.

I was watching “It’s a wonderful life” and seeing George Bailey help the town always makes my chest swell with pride. I’ve said it before and I will say it again, it is a noble career. It helps people. I am focusing on my writing but the day job still has a lot of appeal. I’m a writer and a banker, I want to focus more on the writing having spent so much time on the former but I don’t consider it a waste of time by any means. If my writing is never more than a side venture, and I progress in banking, I would be happy. If I made it as a writer, I wouldn’t be going on about how much I hated my life before that.

I remember when I left university, I had got my law degree, focused my final year in banking law. However, the banking sector had collapsed, all the prestigious graduate placements had evaporated. I could go into another field of law, that was what my parents had certainly suggested. Instead I buckled down and actually worked in a bank call centre. I can admit, that dented my ego a bit. Here I was, law school graduate, working in a call centre alongside some people who had left high school at the first opportunity. I stuck at it, eventually there was an opening in the bank’s legal and compliance team, I went for it, got it and eventually progressed into commercial banking (the big leagues!) and am happy.

Banking helps people. Businesses get loans, people get houses etc. I won’t whitewash the truly disastrous decisions that led to the crash of 2008 but most the people in the industry want to help. And yes, make some money doing so, but whether it is banking, writing, art, photography, if you put in the effort, you deserve to make a bit of money, we shouldn’t be afraid to say that.

2016 was a tough year for banking but we are on the right track. Slowly but surely we are winning the public trust back again, it hasn’t been easy- nor should it have been- but we are getting there.

Two biggest trends I saw are generally more branches being closed as customers prefer online banking. Fair enough, easier to do it on your phone rather than a branch, but it is a big shift compared to what it was. This can be tricky for some of the more isolated communities in Scotland but most banks are resorting to the banks on the move, huge vans that serve as portable bank branches.

Secondly is greater regulation and emphasis on ring fencing in banking. Short version it means keeping the “boring” banking (opening accounts, holding money, mortgages, loans) away from the risky banking (gambling on the stock market, currency speculation etc). That means if the risky banking part implodes, it won’t drag the rest of the bank down with it, we can cut the tether and let them fall. This is a great idea. For people who want to invest and take the chance, they have the opportunity to do so, and are aware they could lose everything or make huge amounts of money. For most people who want a safe place to put their money, for more reliable and stable loans, the bank remains safe.

It is an exciting time to be in banking- a career I do enjoy and take a lot of pride in.

FRIENDS & FAMILY

We all have our weak links, areas to improve and I will admit this is one of mine. It has been such a manic year, friends and family have often slipped through the cracks. This year I am making more of an effort. It can be tricky because most my friends are scattered across the country but every few months we do manage a hang out. I want to keep this up.

Likewise, my family, who still reside in the small town I was born in on the west coast of Scotland, have often been put to the bottom of the to do list. Hopefully I can make more of a pilgrimage home than I did in 2016. It is tough because I love Edinburgh, I moved here when I started in banking, I really do love the city and that is after five years of living here. I never want to leave Edinburgh, so having to cross the country, get two connecting trains, it takes about four hours urggggg. No excuses though, I need to make the effort.

I took the below pic today, nice crisp morning here in the capital.

20170102_103533.jpg

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