Locally and nationally 2014 is going to be a decisive one – not just for us Liberal Democrats but for Scotland, the UK and the European Union as a whole.
It is going to be the most overwhelmingly political calendar year in the experience of most political participants. I believe that we are about to live through a period quite without precedent since 1974 – the year which saw two general elections. And its impact will be even more far reaching.
Both the European elections and the Scottish independence referendum offer us Liberal Democrats two pivotal platforms upon which to convey what, I believe, to be the uniquely optimistic political mindset in which we approach the twin priorities of the two great evolving political unions which shape our times.
As such, in conveying that political optimism, we must be bold to the point of fearlessness. 2014 is not one for the politically timid; as such it should be our natural territory and should enable us to regain that sense of self-belief and momentum vital to these challenges and to the longer haul onto the 2015 UK general election itself.
The pro-European voice, passionate yet pragmatic, needs to be heard as never before in UK politics. As a member state we face increasing marginalisation if the current European erosion in our domestic politics is not halted. It is vital for millions of people that we speak up unambiguously for a European Union which continues to evolve in the interests of its citizens.
That same challenge presents itself where the future of the United Kingdom generally is concerned. In winning the argument for a UK which continues to develop in a more decentralised and increasingly federal fashion we must use the Scottish referendum opportunity to paint out a more positive, bold picture of our future.
For Liberal Democrats the Scottish referendum campaign is a real chance to reconnect with voters generally. For us it has to be about much more than the short-term defeat of nationalism; instead it is about giving voice to a Scottish future – within both prevailing political Unions – which is positive and leapfrogs the current campaign negativity.
I believe that as a party we are more than capable of meeting both challenges. For ourselves and the good of our body politic it is a political imperative that we do so.
* Charles Kennedy is the Liberal Democrat candidate in Ross, Skye & Lochaber and was MP until dissolution of Parliament on 30 March 2015