As 2020 approaches, senior figures from across government reflect on their highlights and challenges of 2019, look ahead to the next 12 months and share their favourite festive memories
What was your highlight of 2019?
Working with talented, insightful, agile and resilient Scottish Government teams leading our response to Brexit and its implications for Scotland. As civil servants we are pretty familiar with anticipating and navigating change, but I have been particularly proud of how my teams have prepared for a range of possible scenarios and their impact on communities across Scotland. That work goes on.
What has been the most significant change in your organisation this year?
Tackling climate change has been a priority for some time but this year’s ambitious Programme for Government has intensified that ambition and drive. Our Climate Change Act is the toughest, most ambitious legislative framework in the world and Scotland will be net zero for all greenhouse gases by 2045, a full five years ahead of the UK as a whole. Action starts at home – we are working hard to reduce the carbon emissions produced by our estate and fleet. We’ve removed single use plastic cups (preventing 450,000 cups from being thrown away every year) and replaced plastic food containers with compostable Vegware. I am committed to travelling by train wherever possible for my regular visits to London and shall continue to favour train travel in Scotland. But there is still more to do to tackle the climate emergency.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2020 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
Leading through unprecedented change and uncertainty whilst delivering government commitments and driving organisational improvement. Brexit planning and preparedness continues, the Scottish Government is hosting major events such as COP26 in Glasgow, as we strive to become a more diverse, inclusive and engaged workplace. Just as well we civil servants love a challenge! Collective and collaborative leadership, coupled with excellent programme management and a healthy dose of organisational resilience, will be crucial in 2020.
Tell us a favourite festive memory from your youth...
When I was five my older brothers sneaked an advance and totally forbidden peek of their Christmas present (a second-hand miniature railway set, laid out under a bedspread in a locked room). My mother promptly “cancelled” Christmas. I was absolutely furious with them – and delighted when she relented…