As the year draws to the close it's worth taking stock of the events of the past 12 months. As Provost I have the great honour or working with communities across South Ayrshire and it's fair to say that 2017 has been a year to remember.
Not all the memories have been good and sadly the impact of terror attacks were felt throughout the UK and we stood shoulder to shoulder with people in London and Manchester after the awful events in March, May and June. I think that it's important that we never take our civil liberties for granted and remember that our society is built on shared values and common decency, a positive factor that should unite rather than divide the people of this country.
Looking back over the year one of my personal highlights was the World War 1 commemoration of Ayr's own Victoria Cross hero, Robert Shankland. 100 years after his deeds at Passchendaele we were lucky enough to track down his family in Canada who joined us at Rozelle Remembrance Woodland to lay a stone in his honour as part of a national campaign. The site is well worth a visit if you have the chance and is a fixture which is set to grow in the years ahead.
As many of you will know, environmental issues are close to my heart and this year saw the Provost's School Footprint Challenge go from strength-to-strength. Pupils from all of our secondary schools took part, with Girvan Academy crowned this year's winners. The ideas being dreamt up are helping to drive down costs in our schools through energy efficiency measures and the programme gained national recognition as a finalist at this year's COSLA Excellence awards.
My diverse role takes me to see first-hand the great work of groups across South Ayrshire. In February we held a civic reception for the inspirational Troon BB Pipe Band following their success at the World Pipe Band Championships in Glasgow. Physical activity has been high on the agendas too, with the launch of the Ayr Active Travel Hub meaning you can now hire bikes to get around town.
Of course all through the year I've been visiting couples marking significant days. This year we celebrated 16 Diamond Weddings, one Sapphire and one Gold Wedding, alongside two 100th birthdays! I'm honoured to be able to share in these milestone anniversaries and would like to thank every couple for welcoming me into their lives.
I think Christmas is an important festival which brings out the best in all of us, and with the traditions and goodwill that we mark at this time of year it's important to truly make this an inclusive time for all. If you know someone that will be spending time alone let them know you're there. Company at this time of year can be a life-saver for some, and I know there are a great many people and organisations out there that already make a point of going the extra mile at this time of year; and the more of us that do, the stronger our communities become.
I'd like to wish you all the best for the festive season; I hope that the New Year brings you everything that you hope for.