THIS week's Community Column comes from Argyll and Bute's SNP MP Brendan O'Hara.

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IT’S sometimes hard to judge when it’s no longer appropriate to greet those you meet with a cheery Happy New Year. This year, it’s been hard to know when to start.

As we said good riddance to 2020, we earnestly hoped that 2021 might herald a new beginning; a ray of light that would pierce both the physical and metaphorical darkness of a Scottish winter.

Three weeks into the New Year, however, and it felt that that already faint light had become even dimmer. We were in the grip of the second wave of the pandemic, and despite the speedy rollout of the very welcome vaccines, governments across the UK were forced to reintroduce strict lockdown measures.

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The impact of Brexit was there for all to see, as Boris Johnson’s appalling EU trade deal threatened to destroy our west coast fishing industry, with boats tied up in harbour while tens of thousands of tonnes of prime Scottish seafood rotted in the back of lorries in Kent car parks.

In their frantic attempt to find a trade deal with anyone, at any price, last week at Westminster, Boris Johnson’s Tories voted to remove legal guarantees that would have protected the NHS from being sold off as part of any future deal. Things turned even darker when in their desperation, Tory MPs voted to allow the UK to strike trade deals with countries actively involved in genocide.

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And it felt as if the light was in danger of being extinguished completely as supporters of the disgraced ex-president Donald Trump stormed the United States Capitol in an attempted insurrection.

Then, on January 20, out of the gloom there came that glimmer of hope; the inauguration of President Joe Biden. As well as seeking to heal the deep wounds in American society, he promised that America would be a progressive force in the world and would immediately re-join the World Health Organisation and the Paris Agreement.

The poet Amanda Gorman captured the mood perfectly saying: “There is always light, if only we are brave enough to see it. If only we’re brave enough to be it.”

The lights might be coming on again. Happy New Year!

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