January is named after the Roman deity, Janus. Usually depicted as having two faces, one looking forwards the other backwards, he was the god of beginnings and endings, transitions and time.

And so, we look back on the year that has gone, forward to what lies ahead, and make plans, or resolutions, for changes to our lives, a series of new beginnings.

There can be no doubt that 2021 has been a hard year for everybody as the global pandemic and the public health protections that it has necessitated has impacted on all of our lives and I know that looking back on this year will be particularly hard for those who have lost loved ones.

But, even so, there have been ups with the downs – in our individual lives and in our collective experience.

For me, one of the highlights of 2021 was the Scottish Parliament election in May when I had the great honour of being re-elected once again by the people of the Cowdenbeath constituency to be your Member of the Scottish Parliament and, subsequently, by my fellow MSPs as a Deputy Presiding Officer.

With the SNP re-elected to Government, we embarked on delivering our manifesto and in particular on those promises which we had said would be delivered in the first 100 days following the election.

In those 100 days, we met 80 commitments set out in May, driving a sustainable recovery and delivering progress for people, families and communities who need it most.

I simply do not have the space to list them all but some key examples are ensuring Scottish NHS workers continue to be best paid in the UK, £50 million to recruit 1,000 new teachers and 500 pupil support assistants, the roll-out of 1,140 hours of free, high-quality childcare, and increasing funding for affordable homes by over £540 million.

We have taken bold and serious steps to deliver progress and improve the lives of people across Scotland.

We have looked to put right wrongs done in the past with legislation to pardon those convicted during the Miners’ Strike in the 1980s, and we have ensured that our young people can look forward to the future with a confident smile on their faces by removing NHS dental charges for all under-26s.

Covid, sadly, hasn’t gone away but I reiterate the message from public health experts that the most important thing that we can all do for one another is to ensure we are fully vaccinated. Get along for your booster dose as soon as you become eligible and, even if you have not yet had even the first jag, it is not too late to get protected. There will be no judgement, just make an appointment or visit one of the drop-in clinics.

Whatever this coming year has in store for us, I would like to wish my constituents, the team at the Central Fife Times and all its readers, all the very best and may we look forward to 2022 with hope and optimism.