Christmas message

There is little doubt that this year will mostly be remembered for negative reasons. The loss of life, economic hardship and unprecedented curbs on our daily lives and freedoms caused by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have already marked 2020 down as one of the worst years in living memory. This is completely understandable, especially in relation to the many thousands of deaths caused by Covid which have affected so many families.

However, we should not forget another side to this year which can be an inspiration as we recover and rebuild after the pandemic. That is the wonderful response from communities and individuals to the hardships created by lockdown and the necessary public health restrictions.

Neighbours looked out for and helped those around them, displaying the kind of community spirit it sometimes felt had been lost forever. Local community groups, charities and businesses rallied around to provide emergency food parcels, hot meals and other essentials for those shielding or isolating. And just this month we witnessed the start of the vaccination programme which is the result of a remarkable scientific effort and offers the world hope as we enter the new year.

I highlight these things, not to downplay the harm the pandemic has done so far and will undoubtedly continue to do for some time to come, but rather because in times of adversity it is important to also focus on the positive if we can. That is one of the reasons I have continued to celebrate in Parliament some of the ongoing local achievements of our communities throughout the pandemic and will keep doing so.

I also highlight them to say thank you to everyone for their efforts, NHS and care staff, council staff including teachers, public transport workers, shop workers and all those community volunteers.

2020 is also my last full year as East Lothian’s MSP as I prepare to stand down from the role next May. I do so with mixed emotions. I will miss representing this amazing area at Holyrood and everything that entails. However, the last few months have underlined the importance of family and I am very much looking forward to having more time to spend with mine after May, especially my seven grandchildren. In the meantime, I will continue to give my all to the job.

I wish all East Lothian residents a merry Christmas and a peaceful 2021.  Take care and stay safe.