HOW to find the right words to describe 2022? Turbulent. Troubling. Chaotic. Unprecedented. Consider the statistics. Three Prime Ministers. One and half million workers balloted for strike action. A third of patients not seen on time at A&E. And perhaps the scariest statistic of all: the personal bills all of us are facing for food, energy and other essential services. The bills all of us are facing to live.

What the crisis craves – and crisis is undoubtedly the right word – is competence and focus from our governments and on that count, in 2022 we were failed by both the SNP at Holyrood and the Conservatives in Westminster. Both the Scottish nationalists and the Tories have now been in power for an especially long time (15 years and 12 years respectively) and it’s inevitable that a kind of political fatigue sets in, with all of us paying the price.

In the case of the Scottish Government, there are several explicit examples, the ongoing mismanagement of the ferries being the most egregious. Readers of The Herald who live and work on Arran for example have made the situation clear on the letters page in the last few weeks: empty supermarket shelves, unreliability, uncertainty for businesses, patients and private individuals – and all of it at a cost to the taxpayer of half a billion pounds for two new ferries. The islanders ask quite rightly: who will help us?

A similar crisis has taken hold in the National Health Service in Scotland. Scottish ministers set themselves a goal of ensuring that 95 per cent of patients in Accident and Emergency are admitted or discharged within four hours but the target has been consistently missed. Indeed, as of December 11 this year, only 62.4 per cent of patients were seen and admitted or discharged within that time. Patients and their families ask quite rightly: must we accept this as the norm now?

As for the UK Government, 2022 represented a new low with three Prime Ministers in a matter of months: the first engulfed in scandals of his own making, the second brought down by her own hubris, and the third, we are told, an improvement on the first two.

But even if Rishi Sunak is better than Liz Truss, what a low bar that is. Mr Sunak has adopted a risky, tone-deaf strategy of doubling down on NHS pay rises – perhaps he sees this as his Margaret Thatcher moment. He has also re-committed his government to sending migrants to Rwanda even though his Home Secretary Suella Braverman has admitted she has been unable to find an airline willing to fly them there.

With the Tories so far behind Labour in the UK opinion polls, it is tempting to conclude that the voters are weary of the crisis and incompetence and that we may even have reached a turning point in British politics at last. For a time, with the rise of Boris Johnson and Brexit in the UK, Donald Trump in the US, and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, it felt like nationalistic populism was on the rise and out of control. At times, it was hard to see a way forward.

But a year of crisis, in the UK and across the world, has also thrown up some signs of hope. Donald Trump launched a fresh bid for the presidency with all the certainty we have come to expect from him: “America’s comeback begins now”, he declared.

Within weeks however, his campaign was floundering thanks to poor election results, mounting legal troubles and, hopefully, something of an awakening among some Republicans. In Brazil too, Bolsonaro lost the election to his left-wing rival and in Britain a poll found that many Britons are suffering Brexit regret with two in three believing it has gone badly.

The question though is whether further change is coming. The huge gap in the opinion polls between Labour and the Conservatives will undoubtedly narrow in the two years before the next general election as many voters rediscover their traditional loyalties; there also doesn’t appear to be a realistic prospect of any party other than the SNP gaining power in Scotland in the foreseeable future.

The other question is what, if they gain it, Labour will actually do with power – their leader Keir Starmer is fearful of losing the Red Wall voters in England, meaning that his leadership has felt cautious rather than radical. On Brexit for example, why is Sir Keir so resistant to discussing the possibility of re-joining the single market?

Perhaps the Labour leader will find the right words the closer we get to a general election and maybe they will offer us some hope that we are emerging from the years of crisis. There was an expectation – or hope perhaps – that we might emerge from the coronavirus pandemic a fairer and more considerate society – a society more willing to support the sick and those who care for them. And yet across the UK, nurses are planning to strike because they feel over-worked, under-valued and under-paid. How long ago was it that we stood on our doorsteps and applauded them?

Sadly, the leadership required to describe the crisis to us in a meaningful way, and describe a way out of it, is lacking among Britain’s political leaders. Perhaps we will have to wait until the generation after Starmer and Sturgeon, but 2022 has at least shown us what good leadership in a crisis looks like. Leadership in war is not the same as leadership in peace but even so Ukrainian President Zelensky rightly drew comparisons with Winston Churchill when he told the US Congress that support for the war wasn’t charity, it was an investment in global security and democracy.

At a fractious time, leadership of a different kind has also been shown on the issues that are most urgent. You may or may not agree with his politics, but union leader Mick Lynch of the RMT has represented rail workers with great passion and eloquence.

At a time when some politicians seem deaf to the problem, the impressive financial expert Martin Lewis has also become a spokesman for millions of people worried about paying their bills. In their own ways, they have demonstrated what leadership is like, and what it can achieve.

The year just gone, this year of crisis, has also given us an opportunity to reflect on leadership of a different kind. The pandemic, political chaos, the cost-of-living crisis, war in Europe, and the special kind of anger Twitter specialises in can be dispiriting – it can also feel for many of us that the change is too fast and unplanned.

However for 70 years, amid all the change, there was a valuable constant in the Queen. Her family and the institution was not free of chaos, scandal or criticism – far from it – but the final chapter of 2022 saw a kind of agreement and unity. As the First Minister said after the Queen’s death in September, millions of Scots loved, respected and admired the monarch and her death was a loss to a family and a loss to the nation.

Undoubtedly, when thinking about the year we have just been through, it’s right to use words like turbulent, troubling, and chaotic. But in contemplating what we lost in 2022, perhaps we can also find clarity on what we need and might regain: stability, security, and leadership.