Wishing you a Merry Christmas
As the year comes to an end I would like to take this opportunity to look back over the past 12 months and remember some of the highlights.
The festive season is a time for peace and reflection and this reminds me of the landmark visit to Japan by the Ayrshire Fiddle Orchestra. They had the honour of performing at the Children's Peace Memorial in the Hiroshima Peace Park.
They were the first orchestra to perform in the park where soloist Mia Walsingham played a specially commissioned piece of music called 'lament for the children for Hiroshima'
I was so proud of our young musicians for spreading the message of peace and harmony.
The orchestra carried with them winning artwork from the peaceful towns' schools art competition. The competition was inspired by Ginko Tree 'peace seeds' donated to South Ayrshire by Mayors for Peace – an international organisation which brings together cities and places dedicated to the promotion of peace.
Travel is a great way to build friendships and partnerships that can last a lifetime. I visited Shandong province in China earlier this year to network and promote South Ayrshire as an exciting and dynamic place to do business as well as a first class leisure destination.
I also welcomed Head Teachers from China to South Ayrshire as part of an educational visit. It was a chance to recognise the excellent work taking place in our schools to learn about Chinese culture, history and language.
We welcome people from across the globe and over the last year around 60 people have become citizens of South Ayrshire. It's always a pleasure to attend the Citizenship Ceremonies to meet and congratulate our newest residents.
This year we celebrated 150 years since the birth of Mahatma Gandhi with the installation of a magnificent rare bronze statue in Ayr Town Hall. The statue which was a gift from the Indian Government is 6ft 4 inches tall and weighs an impressive 400kg.
Gandhi wanted to avoid conflict but when it unfortunately does occur the men and women of our Armed Forces can be called upon. Every year we remember those that have made the ultimate sacrifice and those that still serve. As Veterans Champion I am also keen to support those that have left the Armed Forces.
I have attended many events throughout the year. Merchant Navy Day was a chance to recognise the men and woman who kept Britain supplied during both World Wars and those that continue to brave the high seas. We also celebrated Commonwealth Day and the far-reaching networks that bring 2.4 billion people together.
Over the last few years environmental issues have taken centre stage and doing our bit to combat climate change is something very close to my heart. Getting young people involved is crucial and I am glad to say the Provost's Schools Footprint Challenge goes from strength to strength. This year Prestwick Academy took top spot but all our secondary schools did a great job thinking up energy efficiency schemes and environmental projects to help their school and the wider community.
Throughout the year I have been visiting people to help them celebrate significant events. This year there have been ten Diamond Weddings, two Blue Sapphires, three 100th birthdays and one 105th birthday. It's an honour to share in these special moments and I would like to thank all those involved.
Christmas is a time of celebration, for catching up with family and friends and taking a break. It's also the season of goodwill and a time to remember those less fortunate than ourselves.
If you know someone that will be spending time alone this festive season, remember to pop round or give them a phone, it could really brighten their day.
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.