With the selection boxes polished off, the Christmas jumper tucked away in the drawer and the challenge of fitting the tree back in its box completed for another year, it was back to work for most of us this week. MSPs were no different as they dusted off their passes, and arrived back at Holyrood with a renewed hope that this year will be more serene than they have become accustomed to in recent times.
Given the volatile nature of the past, I say this with a degree of trepidation but perhaps the most notable sign that things might just be that bit calmer is the fact voters in Scotland are not scheduled to head to the polls in 2018, the first time we have been able to say that for five years. Indeed, the election merry-go-round has seen those north of the border participating in 14 votes in just over a decade, so I am sure I speak for the majority when I say that its absence will come as welcome relief.
While we might be saved from an election, the same can’t be said for the ‘B-word’, as the country’s negotiation for exiting the EU will undoubtedly continue to dominate both the newspaper column inches and the UK government’s bandwidth for much of the next 12 months. Indeed, Brexit has already caused the first political stooshie of the year, with Holyrood’s constitution committee confirming on Tuesday that it was unable to recommend that the parliament grant legislative consent to the UK government’s EU Withdrawal Bill, deeming it “incompatible” with devolution. In fact, it was so at odds with the devolution settlement that both the committee’s SNP convener and its Scottish Conservative deputy, usually no strangers to conflict, were in agreement.
This rare moment of harmony perhaps sets the tone for how the two parties will continue to tackle the matter of Brexit in 2018, though both have different agendas for doing so. The SNP will make the most of every opportunity to claim that the UK government’s handling of the situation is another instance of ‘selling out Scotland’. For the Conservatives, they will be hoping that exerting gentle pressure on Theresa May will lead to concessions down the line that permit them to stake the claim that the Scottish Tory 'bloc' is delivering for Scotland – though promised amendments have been delayed. Operating on an election campaign footing is proving to be a difficult habit to break for both parties, it would seem.
With the UK bill getting a resounding thumbs-down in its current form, the Scottish government announced on Wednesday that it is preparing to introduce its own version to Holyrood next month, with the EU Continuity Bill seeking to prepare Scotland's laws for EU withdrawal.
The Scottish budget, voted on in February, will be the first major piece of legislation of this session, but what other key issues we can expect to see in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament in 2018? A raft of welfare powers will make their way to Holyrood thanks to a new social security bill, while fresh climate change legislation will raise reduction targets for greenhouse gas emissions even higher. In education – the issue that Nicola Sturgeon has placed at the centre of her government’s priorities - much rests on a new bill that the First Minister hopes will deliver "the biggest and most radical change to how our schools are run that we have seen in the lifetime of devolution".
And finally, what about IndyRef2? Its fate is likely to lie very much in the hands of how the governments in London and Edinburgh handle all of the above, as well as those political curveballs that turn up unannounced to wreak maximum havoc.
However, if there is one thing we can say with absolute certainty it’s that Scottish politics is never dull, and we should prepare to strap in for another rollercoaster year. We’ll be digging those decorations out of the loft again before we know it.