From children in care to the cycling world championships: JP Marks on Scotland’s achievements this year

The perm sec of the Scottish Government looks back on an exciting year (and confesses that he hopes to avoid watching Elf again this Christmas...)
Scotland hosted the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships. Photo: CTK/Alamy Stock Photo

By CSW staff

18 Dec 2023


Tell us three words that sum up your 2023... 

Grateful, partnership and humbling. 

...and why you chose those words    

Firstly, I’m grateful to teams across the Scottish Government for their leadership and hard work in all that we’ve delivered this year, in what have been challenging times for our economy, communities and public services. We’ve made excellent progress in key areas. There are fewer children in care, more students from deprived areas entering university, and court backlogs have fallen, while energy output from renewables and foreign direct investment rates into Scotland's economy are at healthy highs. And we’ve delivered positive outcomes across a range of key areas, from leading the Ukraine resettlement scheme, to supporting families most in need with the Scottish Child Payment, to transforming our economy towards net-zero, to successfully hosting the 2023 UCI Cycling World Championships. Time and time again I have seen teams digging deep for new ideas and going the extra mile to serve ministers and deliver under pressure. I’m extremely grateful for everyone’s efforts.  

And I’m very grateful, too, to our partners for their continued support, so my second word is partnership. Key partnership agreements have been forged this year through hard work, collaboration and developing trust, like our New Deal for Business and the Verity House Agreement with Local Government. As we look ahead, from social care to education and justice reform, we need to keep building trust and effective, inclusive systems leadership to deliver transformation and improved outcomes in Scotland.  

It’s a privilege to work with others to improve lives and deliver more in the service of Scotland, focused on our missions of equality, opportunity and community. Which is why my last word to describe the year is humbling. I continue to be humbled daily by the integrity and resilience of people I work with, within and outside of our civil service, at home and abroad, people who consistently strive to deliver for the communities they serve. It has been another rewarding, busy year with lots to take stock of and be proud of.  

What are your organisational and personal priorities for 2024?   

Overall, our organisational priority is to keep delivering on our three missions of equality, opportunity, and community as set out in the Policy Prospectus and Programme for Government. We will continue to support our ministers to balance the budget – setting new multi-year plans for parliament, and delivering a new 10-year programme for public service reform. This is about putting in the hard yards and investing to build a strong future for Scotland. 

What’s your favourite festive treat, and what makes you say: "Bah, humbug"?   

This year I’m looking forward to lots of chocolate, fewer emails, and surprising the children with lots of fun Christmas activities.   

My bah, humbug? Being made to watch Elf – again. 

This is part of CSW's annual perm secs roundup. Read all the entries to the 2023 roundup here

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