Let me introduce you to a medical researcher called Oliver Gillie.

Perhaps you've already heard of him. Three years ago he published a report which had important things to say about Scotland's poor health. What's more, he suggested a possible remedy.

Dr Gillie published a pamphlet which drew a parallel between Scotland's low levels of sunshine and its appalling health record. Sunshine is a major source of vitamin D. Without sunshine, Dr Gillie says we would need to eat oily fish – skin and all – three times a day to achieve the same effect.

Vitamin D deficiency has long been identified as the cause of rickets. It's also a risk factor for multiple sclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, some cancers, as well as osteoporosis – I could go on, but you get the picture.

It's a familiar-sounding litany. We hear it chanted in tandem with hand wringing about Scotland's fat and alcohol-rich diet. We see hospitals clogged with its victims. We wonder fearfully why Scotland is the multiple sclerosis capital of the world.

Could part of the answer be a vitamin supplement?

Dr Gillie's report received praise from a bevy of medical experts from across the globe. George Ebers, professor of clinical neurology at Oxford and a specialist in MS said: "If the evidence is correct Scots have an opportunity to address their health problems by a nationwide programme of vitamin D supplements."

That was in 2008. But just last week the Chief Medical Officer's annual report was published listing all the usual ills but with no mention of vitamin D.

Dr Harry Burns said last week: "It is important to remember that dietary supplements can have harmful as well as positive consequences and recommendations need to be made on the basis of evidential benefit in well conducted randomised studies in large populations.

He has asked the Foods Standards Agency for specialist guidance on the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. He expects the response early in the New Year.

Yet Eire, Finland, Israel, Jordan and Canada and the US have been fortifying milk, bread, cereal or margarine for years.

In 2010 the Scottish Government issued a pamphlet to all GPs aimed at raising awareness of the dangers of vitamin D deficiency. It suggested "at risk" groups should eat more eggs and oily fish.

It recommended daily supplements for the very young, the over 65s, pregnant and breast feeding women and the housebound.

Those participating in the Government's "Healthy Start" scheme get the supplements free. Everyone else is advised to buy them.

Is that it then? Where is the sense of urgency? Where is the publicity campaign to alert members of the Scottish population who don't fall into the "at risk" group but who almost certainly lack vitamin D, especially in winter?

There may be no cast-iron proof that taking 1000 to 2000 iu – international units – of vitamin D each day will protect us from serious chronic illness. Dr Burns quotes one review from The Institute of Medicine in the United States which concluded there was no evidence of any impact of Vitamin D on any chronic illness apart from its impact on bone health.

But wouldn't most of us consider it worth a try? There are small numbers of people for whom it would be inadvisable. However, Dr Gillie says the vast majority of people would need to take 40,000iu a day for weeks or months before they would suffer toxicity.

Compare that to the potential downside of autoimmune disease, heart problems and cancer that could affect those who remain deficient. If the protective effect works, the population would be saved from untold misery and personal tragedy. The NHS would save billions.

A month's supply of vitamin D costs less than £1. That's £12 a year to potentially protect ourselves against life's major ailments.

Dr Burns says that poverty and social isolation lie at the root of Scotland's rotten health. These will, of course, play the major part. Yet when the population is compared social class for social class with people south of the border, the Scots still fare worse.

It is attributed to something called the Scottish effect. Could an element of the Scottish effect be vitamin D deficiency?

Dr Burns cites the need for international research. But why isn't Scotland spearheading that research? We are, after all, the world capital of MS.

If the link is established we can enter a debate over whether increasing vitamin D levels should be a public policy or a private decision.

The Government might be slow to fortify food after Scotland's experience with fluoride. It led to the longest and most expensive court case of its day.

In 1982 a Glasgow grandmother Catherine McColl challenged the right of Strathclyde Regional Council to add fluoride to water supplies.

After 143 days of taking evidence and a 300-page report Lord Jauncey found in her favour but left the issue "unresolved". The court case cost £1 million. There is still no fluoride added to the water and Scottish children from deprived areas still top the UK tooth-rot chart.

However Mrs McColl had a valid case. In a liberal democracy it is the right of the individual to decide what they swallow. The state can inform us about the possibly catastrophic effects of vitamin D deficiency, it can subsidise supplements or offer them free, but it might balk at fortifying food.

Meanwhile we are on the cusp of a new year, filled with optimism and fresh determination. So why wait for officialdom to build vitamin D into the diet?

We are free to be the masters of our own destiny. We can smoke, eat damaging foods and drink ourselves to death. We can starve our bodies of a vitamin that will help protect us against chronic illness and early death. Or, until the sun shines again, we can make sure our levels remain high.

Some will say an individual approach means the affluent will benefit and the poor will not. I don't equate income and intelligence. If you tell two sets of parents, one rich the other poor, their family needs the supplement, they will buy it.

Why wouldn't they spend £12 a year to protect their child?

Our ancestors didn't survive by waiting for the appointed monkey to tell them when to jump from the jaws of a tiger. And I'll not cross my fingers that I stay healthy while I wait for the state to complete its research and act as nanny. I hope you don't either.