At a time of global uncertainty and what might seem a never-ending stream of bad news – from Trump to Brexit, and the refugee crises to climate change – people might be forgiven for doing what they can to avoid hearing any more about it, particularly over the festive period.
But the new year is one of optimism for Scotland – as the SNP takes forward its programme for government announced last September, including some important commitments that will improve lives in Edinburgh and across the country.
Last year saw us make some great progress on a number of really vital issues – from significantly increasing investment to reduce homelessness and rough sleeping, to the passage of the ground-breaking Child Poverty Bill in November, and the landmark decision to ban fracking.
It is this type of commitment that will make a real difference for people – and the SNP will continue moving Scotland forward in 2018 as part of our commitment to make Scotland a healthier, greener and happier place to live.
Amongst the wide array of legislation being brought forward this year, Parliament will have an opportunity to pass Bills on climate change, education, warm homes, organ donation, transport and, of course, the budget.
But that’s not all. The Scottish Government will continue to roll out innovative and transformative policies across the country – as well as implementing new ideas and solutions to the challenges Scotland is facing now and will face in the years to come.
This means making the world a better place for our children and young people to grow-up into – and nothing exemplifies this commitment more than the baby box.
This universal commitment will give every newborn child across Scotland the very best start in life – and gives parents absolutely everything they need, from nappies to somewhere for their child to sleep. The success of this policy since it was introduced in Finland makes it clear it is the right thing to do.
But in the course of this year, it isn’t just newborn Scots that are being supported.
The creation of the new Scottish social security system puts the needs of the most vulnerable people in this country at its very heart, rejecting the callous approach of the Tory government at Westminster in the few areas that have been devolved – and the knock on impact that this will have in improving areas such as mental health is huge.
We’re also taking strong action to tackle air pollution, reduce obesity, boost active travel – and investing heavily in our National Health Service to meet the challenges of today and tomorrow.
Last month’s budget announced an extra £400 million for our NHS – money that will go towards supporting nurses and doctors in carrying out the tireless work that keeps our health service running.
And let’s not forget the commitment to end the public sector pay cap – giving our hard-working NHS staff the pay rise they deserve.
Scotland is part of an increasingly complex and challenging world – and our own Scottish Government is facing challenges from all over – whether that is from Tory austerity, or the uncertainty for Edinburgh and the rest of the country because of Brexit.
But the work that we are doing here and now – on health care, education, our environment, infrastructure and in protecting and enhancing our welfare state – means that our small corner of the planet can flourish in 2018 and beyond.
Ash Denham is the SNP MSP for Edinburgh Eastern.