IT’S time for one last party of 2023 as we brace ourselves for what another year has in store.

The last few have given us a pretty turbulent ride, so I’m sure we’re all hoping for something to look forward to in 2024.

One thing high on the political wish list for most of us will be seeing the back of the current UK Government, which has been scraping further down to the bottom of the barrel than anyone thought possible.

Thirteen years of Tory rule have been unlucky for most. As if the first wave of austerity cuts wasn’t bad enough, they followed it with the chaos of Brexit. They’ve taken to undermining Scotland by compulsively blocking devolved legislation, while lurching ever further toward anti-immigrant policies which were once the preserve of far right extremists.

After Liz Truss’s catastrophic few weeks in Downing Street wrought economic carnage, the latest phase of Tory misrule has been marked by a strong whiff of corruption, the ditching of the handful of positive climate policies they still had and – just to remind us what they will always stand for – another even deeper wave of austerity cuts.

Yes, the end of this sorry story would be the best celebration the new year could bring. It can’t come soon enough.

An early task for MSPs in the new year will be passing a budget which aims to protect Scotland from the economic consequences of Truss and Sunak’s incompetence and brutality. Continuing our moves toward progressive tax, we’re proposing a new rate which will see very high earners, above £75,000, paying a bit more. As a result of this and previous tax choices, there’s an extra £1.5 billion going into public services in Scotland, in contrast with the tax cuts the Tories are giving to the wealthy.

Because of these choices, we’ve been able to continue and even increase the Scottish Child Payment, which will have made the festive season that bit easier for thousands of families.

And after another year that’s seen climate records tumbling and the continued breakdown of our environmental life support system, we’re investing in climate and nature as never before. As well as helping protect our long-term survival, a great deal of that investment will have a direct financial benefit in the here and now. Making our homes warmer and greener will insulate us from high energy prices, and policies like free bus travel for young people are already saving people money while making sure nobody has to turn down a job or a college course because they can’t manage the bus fare.

But there’s no doubting the inevitable impact of UK cuts, especially on capital budgets – that’s the part which can be invested in things like building homes. It’s the worst possible time for the UK to have cut this capital spending, and it makes our commitment to bring forward long term rent control even more urgent.

Assuming the Tories are given their marching orders when the election comes, there’s also a hope that a new UK Government might reset the relationship with the governments in Scotland and Wales, and not just fund our services properly but stop interfering in devolved matters. Given the speed at which they’re currently adopting Tory policies though, maybe this is just too much to hope for.

Have a happy new year when it comes, and let’s take every opportunity 2024 offers us to keep building a better Scotland, protecting people and the planet.