South Ayrshire Provost, Helen Moonie
At this time of year, we all reflect on the past 12 months but also look forward to the coming year with hope and expectation.
I know from talking to people across South Ayrshire that times have been difficult for many, however in the face of adversity our communities are showing remarkable spirit and determination.
Christmas is a time for giving but I am happy that giving is becoming more common place. Even giving up some free time to pick up some shopping for an elderly neighbour will be welcomed.
Charities are an important part of today's society and our Council charities have been generously supported, however Gardening Leave has decided to close its operations. I am saddened by this news as they have helped many veterans. I would like to thank the volunteers and staff for all their hard work over the years.
Helping one another can extend beyond our borders and the plight of refugees is something which has touched us all. Council staff responded to an appeal and donated much needed items to help refugees in camps around Calais.
As a Council, we are supporting the Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme and we will be finalising this assistance in the New Year.
An appreciation of different cultures and countries is helped through our twinning program which can forge lasting friendships. Ayr, Girvan, Maybole and Troon are all twinned with French towns and in light of recent events; we have been in touch to lend our support.
Twinning is one way to promote South Ayrshire as is the hosting of exhibitions such as the 2020VISION exhibition which showcased the work of 20 of the UK's top nature photographers.
This exhibition was part of the Place Partnership initiative which is set to turn South Ayrshire into a hub for arts and culture. Many of the partnership projects highlight the pressures on our environment and this is something we all need to protect for future generations.
With this in mind, I was delighted to launch the Provost's Footprint Challenge which involves all our schools. Pupils will compete to come up with the best ideas to tackle climate change and reduce our carbon footprint.
I have also been engaging with lots of young people over the past year, telling them a bit about the role of the Provost. One of the first things I tell people is that I am proud to represent South Ayrshire and high profile events like the Scottish Airshow provide a great opportunity to be an ambassador.
At this time of year we should remember the men and women serving our country around the world.
This year we have developed commemorative woodland at Rozelle in Ayr which we believe is the first of its kind in Scotland. There are breathtaking sculptures featuring soldiers from WWI and I am delighted that there are plans to develop the trail.
Whatever you are doing this Christmas, we should all remember those that have to work at this time of year.
Charities, the police, fire and rescue service, NHS, Council workers and many more will all have to work over the festive period to ensure we have a peaceful Christmas and a safe new year.
I would like to wish you all the best for the festive season; I hope that the New Year brings you all you hope for.