All too often, people struggling with mental ill health face a real challenge in accessing the treatment they need. Services in Scotland – and right across the UK – are stretched, with patients often forced to travel substantial distances for support.
The situation for Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) in Scotland illustrates this clearly. At present, there are no specialist beds north of Dundee.
Many years ago, during the campaign for the 1987 general election I hosted a house meeting in our flat in the west end of Glasgow in support of the late Roy Jenkins, then MP for Glasgow Hillhead. It was an exciting occasion for all who attended.
For me, it was exciting as it allowed me to do my bit to support the efforts of a man who then, as now, was a political inspiration to me.
New figures have revealed that Scotland’s schools have been forced to make £300 million in cuts over the past five years due to the squeeze on council budgets imposed by the SNP. The draft budget for 2016/17 would see services hammered again by £500 million in extra cuts.
The SNP say they want to close the attainment gap and help children reach their potential. Forcing through swingeing cuts to education budgets is a funny way to go about it. COSLA, the body representing Scotland’s councils, has said that the latest cuts look like being a step too far.
Liberal Democrats have set out plans to transform Scottish education in the next five years (you can read them here: scotlibdems.org.uk/education). By committing to raising income tax by 1p, we will be able to spend £475million more on education next year alone.
The biggest investment in education since devolution.
And what a difference this could make.
In the House of Lords this week, I gave a speech in response to the Strathclyde review - in which I warned that the changes risked making the Lords into an impotent debating chamber and that combined with other measures being put forward by the Tories - including FOI changes and cuts to short money, risked diluting scrutiny of the Government.
You can read the speech here:
It is fair to say that Police Scotland has had a difficult 12 months and the new Chief Constable has a serious amount of work to do if he is to restore morale among the rank and file and ensure the public can have confidence in the force.
Common Agricultural Policy payments from the EU are hugely important to rural communities across Scotland. They help keep farmers and crofters in businesses and spill over into the wider rural economy as people buy the supplies they need.
The last five years in the Scottish Parliament have been dominated by independence. The next five years should be dominated by a bright, green and liberal programme for Scotland.
With Scotland returning to work today it should signal a change of focus for our parliament: it's time to get on with the day job.
So what can we look forward in 2016? Scots athletes excelling as part of Team GB at the Rio Olympics. Andy Murray mounting another challenge at Wimbledon.
And the small matter of a Scottish Parliament election that will set the direction of the country for five years.
As ever, at this election voters face a choice.
The innocence of the young is one of the great joys of Christmas. It is the job of the political leaders to protect that innocence from the, sometimes ugly, world around us.