The Festive season has always been a time for people to come together, and given the difficulties of the last two years I hope you all found some time to reconnect with loved ones over Christmas and New Year, albeit exercising care in the process.
The emergence of the Omicron variant has however required a renewed push, instead of a rest by vaccinators and frontline staff across the country. Their efforts ensured that every eligible young person and adult was offered a booster appointment by the turn of the year.
We are all indebted to those who have continued to ensure that Scotland delivers one of the fastest and most successful vaccination programmes in the world. Let us be in no doubt that a great many lives have been saved by their dedication.
This New Year will bring new challenges and that is why I was so pleased to hear the First Minister announce in the last days of December, how £107 million is being allocated to support businesses impacted by the spread of the Omicron variant.
The funding, which follows an initial £100 million lifeline package is the part of the £375 million committed to business support provided by the Scottish Government. Following discussions with stakeholders, this latest package – targeted at some of the hardest-hit sectors – will see payments start early in the new year.
I have heard directly from many constituents about the impact that working in pandemic conditions has had and I want to sincerely thank you for everything you have done, and continue to do, during this difficult time.
2022 has been designated Scotland’s Year of Stories. This will be a year in which stories inspired by, created, or written in Scotland will be showcased and celebrated.
One story will hopefully be of our recovery from Coronavirus. We will have to adapt to new challenges, but I know the people of Angus will continue to respond with their characteristic vigour.
A new year brings us new events to look forward to such as the Winter Olympics, Commonwealth Games, World Cup, and it would be remiss of me not to mention the upcoming local elections in May. A chance for you to have your say.
Scotland’s stories reflect who we are and shape how others see us. 2022 gives us the opportunity of a new blank page on which to write a new story. I wish you all a new year which contains everything you could reasonably ask for.