THE start of a new year is an apt time for reflection on the past, where we are and what the future might hold.

We now have two very tired governments who both appear to have run out of steam; 13 years of the same administration at Westminster and 16 years of the same devolved government at Holyrood.

For me, 2023 was characterised by political stagnation, dirge and government by propaganda.

A cacophony of failed policies, turning like leaves in the wind. Wedge politics to scapegoat some fictitious enemy; zero focus on bread and butter cost of living issues as we’re fed endless nonsense on Brexit, asylum seekers and the constitution.

In 1958, the author and searing social critic Aldous Huxley talked about his series of essays, Enemies of Freedom, on the US television show, the Mike Wallace Interview.

Huxley said, “All democracies are based on the proposition that power is very dangerous and that it is extremely important not to let any one person or small group have too much power for too long a time”.

Huxley was concerned about the increase in authoritarianism at the expense of individual liberty. We’ve certainly seen existential crises being used to curb personal freedoms.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a recent example of this and it has been heartbreaking to watch the Covid inquiries so far fail to make any headway in holding those in power to account.

Will the apparent tacit acceptance that senior officials and ministers simply lost or deleted crucial evidence relevant to the public inquiries mean reckless, negligent or corrupt decisions might never be held to account?

At least we have an opportunity to change who governs us at Westminster in 2024. There will be a General Election and such pivotal occasions have the ability to clean the Augean Stables. As Robert Burns wrote, “Dare to be honest and fear no labour”.

The next Holyrood election is May 2026 and as I’ve written in this column, the Scottish Parliament would do well to consider reforms to return to its founding principles.

As we said goodbye to 2023, we were met with two reminders of how poorly our democracy is served. The New Year’s Honours list saw Liz Truss giving out three peerages and eight other honours despite being Prime Minister for 49 days and costing the economy £30 billion.

We learned the primary Brexit benefit will be the ability to buy wine in pint bottles this year. This summed up Boris Johnson’s tenure as PM – an inverted pyramid of piffle one might say.

The need to restore truth, honourable values and decency to our public institutions was perhaps best illustrated by the greatest miscarriage of justice in UK legal history.

The shocking conspiracy against more than 700 sub-postmasters resulted in lives being ruined, wrongful prosecutions, bankruptcies and repossessions when we now know the Post Office and others knew financial discrepancies were down to faulty software.

In total, 39 sub-postmasters had their convictions overturned by the English Court of Appeal in 2021, including three posthumously. Yet the Post Office conducted more than 700 private criminal prosecutions between 2000 and 2014.

There is nothing to stop the UK Parliament passing an Act of Parliament to overturn all of these convictions and spare the need for former post office workers to apply to the appeal court for convictions to be quashed.