Happy New Year. A time to reflect on events of the last 12 months and to identify priorities for the year ahead. So as 2024 begins what New Year resolutions should be on the government’s list ?

This needn’t be a long list. Yes, government needs to cover a wide range of challenges, and to respond to unexpected events as they arise, but being clear about what really matters is important. Better to deliver successfully on people’s key priorities than to try to do everything and deliver little.

Polling consistently shows health and the cost of living crisis top voters list of concerns.

Scotland’s health service isn’t delivering what it should. With around 800,000 people on waiting lists, and even getting a GP appointment seen as a major achievement, it impacts every family in the country. The health service is a complex system, but the mechanisms that cause failure are well known.

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Ambulances can’t respond as they are stuck waiting to offload patients at hospitals, caused by ‘bed blocking’ due to delayed discharge as a consequence of lack of capacity in the social care system.

Meanwhile overflowing A&E departments pick up the pieces caused by lack of capacity in primary care. The pattern is one of loading more demand onto the expensive parts of the system rather than investing in more cost-effective preventative measures.

More money can help, but with a health budget already 10% higher than the UK average there are clearly other issues at play. I’m written previously on steps that need to be taken.

Move resources from bureaucracy to the front line, and to cost effective preventative measures. Use technology and roll out proven innovations to increase capacity and quality of care – in acute and primary settings. And empower staff to innovate free from excessive management.

The cost of living crisis manifests itself in different ways. But at its core it’s about costs increasing faster than incomes – particularly for those who were already struggling. Some of the levers required to fix this are directly controlled at a UK level – inflation, interest rates, energy costs, minimum wage and much of social security. But where responsibility is devolved – on housing and devolved taxes and benefits the Scottish Government should be clear about what it can and will deliver.

Direct financial support for struggling families is always welcome, and much is already in place. Reduced or free transport costs helps family budgets and supports economic activity more widely. The Scottish Child Payment supports those who need financial help most. But there are limits to how far national budgets can cover these costs so interventions need to be effectively targeted.

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Housing costs are a key component of every family budget. And housing shortages constrains population and economic growth. At root this is a supply problem. No amount of tinkering around the edges will fix it unless there is a step change in house building volumes across all tenures driving down costs.

Addressing the challenges around investment, planning and build capacity needs to be priority Done properly this also benefits the planet. Decarbonisation of heat in buildings is the biggest challenge in meeting our climate targets. Stop pretending that householders are experts in renewable technology, government needs to step up to the plate and deliver well thought out solutions that can be rolled out at scale.

Underpinning much of this is the need to address skills. There’s still plenty of demand in the economy, the problem is that businesses cant grow to meet that demand due to lack of skills. That hampers the growth of the tax base, badly needed to support public finances, and limits the ability of individuals to increase their incomes through taking advantage of the large number of highly paid vacancies that still exist across the economy. Listening to business about what skills the economy needs, and aligning the skills system to support that, is a critical step that can’t afford to wait.

Stability is important. Families and businesses need to know what to expect so they can plan, invest and face the future with some confidence. Constant chopping and changing of policy direction in an effort to secure short term positive headlines does no good for anyone.

Some of this will take time to bear fruit, but a surprising amount can be done over the course of 12 months to make a real difference in people’s lives. The key thing is to be clear about priorities and relentlessly focus on delivery.

Independence will become the settled will of the Scottish people once they see that we can deliver effectively with the powers we have. Lets use the next 12 months to rise to that challenge and deliver on the people’s priorities.

Ivan McKee is a former SNP business minister