A BAKERY has launched a new pastry product. It’s the dawn of a new decade, there are increasing numbers of people huddled on cardboard and under damp sleeping bags on city centre streets, a new government with a track record of punishing social policies is in power and citizens would be starving if volunteers and donors weren’t propping up the welfare state with an ever growing network of foodbanks.

But a bakery has launched a new pastry product and this is making headlines because the pastry product is vegan. Vegan!

And vegan has become a quick means of clicks for online focused media outlets due to the ire created at the very sight of the v-word.

Mention “vegan” and backs go up. We love to hate the vegans, bloody vegans with their focus on good health, compassion for animals and desire to be less of a burden on our struggling planet. What a bunch of... well, the editor won’t let me finish that sentence.

It’s bonkers, isn’t it, how the vegans, of all groups, have become the bête noire of civilised society and Piers Morgan.

It was the Greggs vegan sausage roll that caused conniptions last time and now the cheeky marketeers at the high street chain have propelled into 2020 with a vegan steak bake.

Altogether now: IT’S NOT STEAK IF THERE’S NO MEAT. Feel better?

The 10 years just gone was the decade of outrage and what’s more telling than the fact we can’t bear to see people give up cheese without having to harrumph loudly about it.

If it’s impossible to come to a general consensus that being vegan has some really good upsides but it’s not for everyone, how in the name are we expected to agree on anything of more importance?

But agree we must because a decade of relentless rowing is enough. Enough.

Another constant refrain of disagreement has been over what to do about the climate crisis. Cue a hundred op-eds split along two themes – the individual must take action or change is the responsibility of government and big business.

Earlier this week I read yet another complaint that corporations are let off the hook every time a cold beverage consumer is chided for using a straw.

Surely it’s plain that if we are to counter the death of the planet – and on what topic could there be a greater urgency to seek agreement – everyone must be involved?

Governments and corporations should be leading the way, they must in order to make the structural and wide-ranging changes needed to halt the damage being caused to the environment. And at the ground level there must be pressure on these organisations.

If there’s no sense of public willing – or even public interest – then there is no impetus for policy change from the top down.

It’s a good broader lesson – cross-society cohesion. Compromise to create a larger good.

It will be uncomfortable. Creature comforts and conveniences will have to be sacrificed; cars, plastics, and on. But the compromise is vital.

So too is to try, where possible, to stop looking at issues as binary.

A hugely problematic and frustrating element of public discourse that has developed is the habit of seeing people as for us or against us. This is common in the Scottish independence debate – you are pro-independence or you hate Scotland.

In the trans debate too, you are pro-self ID, the new legislation proposed that will allow trans people to more easily and painlessly gain a Gender Recognition Certificate, or you hate trans people.

The notion of existence has become a common theme too. It’s not unusual to see, mid-debate, someone claim that the other party would prefer them not to exist. It’s a symptom of a wider trend towards hyperbole in public debate.

Anger and frustration grows and grows without any resolution and the means of expressing this fury become so hyperbolic as to be meaningless.

As we tread into 2020 these issues are very much at the fore. We will continue to discuss the reforms to the Gender Recognition Act and the interaction between trans rights and women’s rights. The topic of Scottish independence and the chances of another referendum are vivid.

Some will say it is impossible to compromise or empathise when there is so much bile spewed in these discussions. On some issues, compromise will be distasteful, rather than merely inconvenient. To reach out an understanding hand to someone you oppose will be no easy feat.

Extreme elements of each side must not be an excuse not to try. There are nonsense fringes on every side. More than nonsense – toxic, appalling, even violent. These do not represent the vast majority of decent, engaged people.

I think that’s something we forget. The majority of people are decent, even when we disagree with them. It should give pause, to think why someone we otherwise respect would hold views in opposition to our own.

A decade has just closed in which there has been a rise in xenophobia, a rise in hatred, a rise in exclusion, whether of vulnerable people, those in poverty, or those born elsewhere and living here.

A new decade has opened and we have to decide how we are going to push back against these rising ills.

In a climate of political cruelty and social deprivation, basic moral goodness becomes a radical act. Understanding becomes a radical act. Compromise becomes a radical act. Volunteering and donating become radical acts.

In 2020 Scotland will be in a position of confronting its own mythology. Does Scottish exceptionalism stand up to scrutiny: are we kinder, more fair, more socially conscious, more welcoming?

Truly exceptional would be to reach a place in public debate – whether online or around the dinner table – where listening and understanding are more common than pointless binary back and forths.