THIS is my first column of 2024 and I would like to wish everyone a happy New Year.

This year will most likely be an election year in the UK Parliament. The Tories have been in freefall for so long now it seems inevitable there will be a change in government.

But what does this mean for Scotland?

It is hard to tell the difference between Keir Starmer’s Labour Party and the Tory party, as the Labour Party panders to the core Tory voters by following the Tories’ spending plans on the NHS and state pensions, by providing no increased focus on green energy or energy security and, under Labour, there will be no return to Europe.

In the past, the Labour Party had a focus on inequality. But this is no longer the case. Westminster does not work for Scotland and the parties in government rarely reflect the aspirations of the people of Scotland.

Around half of the electorate want independence and there is reason to be optimistic about Scotland’s future. Scotland has extraordinary natural resources. In areas such as renewable technologies, the financial sector, the food and drink sector and in further education, we are strong.

As Scotland’s block grant funding from UK Government has fallen in real terms this year, there is no doubt that in 2024 the economic situation in Scotland will present challenges.

We will always do our best with the powers that we have, but they are simply no substitute for independence.

To truly transform our economy, society and public services, and to reap the benefits of Scotland’s resources for current and future generations, we need the full powers of independence and to retake our place in the European Union.