I want to take the opportunity to wish all readers of the Turriff Advertiser a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year when it comes.
I hope also that 2021 will be a better year for all of us than 2020 has been.
I don’t think anyone could have predicted at the beginning of this year how this year would go.
The Covid-19 pandemic turned all our lives upside down, leading to a national lockdown that lasted for five months.
Far too many people have lost their lives, and many were prevented from seeing their loved ones in their final days.
And of course the virus and the resulting shutdown had a devastating impact on the global economy.
Thankfully, there is now light at the end of the tunnel, with the vaccination programme in full swing and the most vulnerable at the front of the queue.
By the time we get to Spring next year, a large portion of the population in the UK should have been vaccinated.
Along with continued testing, it will allow us all to return to something approaching normality.
It will take our economy longer to recover, but the measures put in place by the UK Government have helped to shield us from the worst.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has spent hundreds of billions of pounds to protect jobs through the furlough and self-employment support schemes, provide business grants and loans to keep companies afloat and of course to fund our public services, particularly our NHS.
In doing so, this country now has its highest levels of borrowing since the Second World War, and the government has been able to do that at historically low interest rates.
That is down to the strength of the UK economy and way in which the public finances have been managed over the past ten years.
As we look ahead to next year, it is clear we must start growing our economy again.
That is why the government has committed to significant levels of investment in infrastructure and green industry to help us build back better.
And the Chancellor has also provided nearly £10billion in extra funding for public services here in Scotland – proving once again the value of Scotland’s place in the UK.
But first, we need to enjoy the festive period, and I would also like to thank everyone for their efforts in helping to contain the virus over the past year.
In particular, I want to thank our NHS staff, carers, emergency service teams, supermarket workers, posties, delivery drivers, farmers, fishermen – in fact, everybody who helped keep services running and the army of volunteers that pitched in when many people were confined to their homes.
And of course, as we celebrate Christmas, I would remind everyone to be careful and keep in mind the social distancing and hygiene guidelines.
Remember, the restrictions will be eased between December 23 and 27, allowing bubbles of up to three households to gather, but that is by no means compulsory.
The virus will not take a break for the Christmas holidays, and we could well be facing tougher restrictions on our day to day lives in the weeks ahead.
Cases have been rising here in Turriff and across Aberdeenshire, so we must remain on our guard at all times.