Throughout the year now drawing to a close our thoughts have often turned to World War One, with many events both local and national to mark the centenary of that conflict. That war was one of the most extreme examples of what happens when we focus on what divides us rather than what we have in common.
I got involved in politics to try and promote the bringing together of people and communities (and countries), so I have to say that this has been a very disappointing year in politics, with Brexit, and the government’s handling of it proving very divisive indeed.
Apart from anything else, that has left too little political attention for some of the things we should be focused on. Our schools for example continue to struggle with teacher shortages and budget cuts, leaving us facing the first strikes in schools since I was a teacher over thirty years ago.
As county rail commuters will testify, problems with basic public transport services like Scotrail have been allowed to drift on unresolved.
The NHS too has struggled through 2018, with waits for appointments and operations continuing to lengthen.
However, Christmas is a time for home and family, and there we do have plenty to celebrate.
Our local schools have actually managed to do very well and raise attainment in spite of the squeeze on resources. Our town centres are doing well, with some great new shops and businesses. More and more of them are winning “in bloom” awards for the tremendous efforts of volunteers making them look very special indeed.
Meanwhile, although many county residents have found this a difficult year, our communities have rallied round to help. Whether it is the foodbank volunteers continually responding to more demand or Homestart and other hard-working local organisations supporting families under pressure, we can be proud of East Lothian and the spirit of this County.
So, even in the doom and gloom of 2018, there is plenty to celebrate. We remember those who gave everything 100 years ago, pay tribute to those who do so much for others today, and finally say thank you to those such as police officers, firefighters, and healthcare workers who will be keeping us safe this Christmas and New Year.
I wish all my constituents a merry Christmas and happy New Year.