There might not be an election or referendum on the horizon (yet) for the first time in several years, but I believe 2018 will be a year in which a new Scotland continues to emerge as a more confident and assertive nation.
That is perhaps not the most obvious conclusion to draw from the ongoing chaos of the Tories’ Brexit plans. However, it is precisely because of that threat to our economy and society that I believe a new spirit of Scottish assertiveness is needed – and will become apparent.
The Scottish Government will continue to oppose Brexit in principle and, in practice, we will resist as fiercely as possible an extreme Brexit, outside the single market and customs union.
And while many involved in agriculture may feel more positive after hearing Michael Gove say the UK government would guarantee subsidies at the current EU level until the 2022 election, like Fergus Ewing, I believe Mr Gove has left too many questions unanswered for Scottish farmers, especially those, such as in Orkney, who rely on the Less Favoured Area Support Scheme. We need more specific assurances before we can take any comfort from his initial words.
The Scottish Government and the SNP at Westminster will continue to fight that Brexit battle, but there will be no let-up in our actions at home.
Over the festive period, we have again been reminded of just how precious our NHS is. Despite exceptional pressures, clinicians across Scotland are working incredibly hard, with fantastic teamwork, to deliver high-quality care to our patients and the Scottish Government will continue to back them with record investment.
The next year will also see continued focus on our efforts to improve Scotland’s schools and close the attainment gap.
Meanwhile our new social security service will help those in need to access the support they are entitled to, with dignity and respect. I am especially pleased that we will also begin to deliver a new package of support for young carers, and also prepare to take over from the UK government responsibility for the assessment and payment of disability benefits.
Minimum pricing for alcohol – now seen as a model for other countries to follow – will be introduced as just one of the measures we are taking to tackle health inequalities.
Later this month, the Scottish Government will publish an updated paper on our future place in Europe, and it will include the current assessment of the likely economic impact of Brexit on Scotland.
Last year First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made clear that the Scottish Government will scrutinise the detail of any final Brexit deal negotiated by the UK Government before deciding the next steps in terms of giving people a choice on Scotland’s future.
Just today, Holyrood’s constitution committee has unanimously backed the Scottish government’s refusal to put Brexit legislation to a consent vote unless changes are made. The committee, which includes Tory MSPs, agreed that, as it stands, the bill is “incompatible with devolution”.
There is no doubt that the threat to Scotland’s interests means that independence must remain an option.
This is a fortnightly column from local MSP Maree Todd SNP
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