THIS is my first article of the New Year and I would like to take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for 2023.

2022 was another challenging time for us here in North Ayrshire and across Scotland as a whole, but I know that whatever lies ahead, we will pull together as a community and face head-on whatever comes our way just as we have done these past few years.

In today’s article, I want to pay tribute to our emergency services and voluntary sector for their fantastic work over Christmas and the past few months which has been a difficult time for so many.

The Ayrshire Samaritans are one of the many charities who deserve a special mention for their efforts, having been on call throughout the festive period, assisting those who need it most.

Everyone should remember that help is ALWAYS available and the Samaritans operate 24/7, so please do reach out to them if you need or save their number in your phone for a future occasion: 116 123.

So many other local charities, organisations and individuals also deserve a special mention for their fantastic work supporting people in our community over the past few months.

One of these is the Community Housing Advocacy Project (CHAP), based in Ardrossan, who are offering free debt advice and assistance.

They are spot-on when they say that talking about money is never easy and they advise anyone struggling financially to get in touch as soon as possible to give them a “stronger start” to 2023.

I’d also like to pay tribute to local resident Leanne Lavery who raised £900 to buy Christmas presents for more than 20 North Ayrshire children she works with in her job as a social worker.

She ran her first ever half marathon to raise the funds and smashed her initial fundraising target of £200, a truly heroic effort – well done Leanne!

Another thank you goes to all of our frontline NHS staff at Crosshouse Hospital and across our health sector who have had yet another tough Christmas, not least in light of the additional pressure they are under from increasing cases of Covid and flu.

Local police officers too deserve our recognition, having also had to face the challenging Christmas period with staffing and funding shortages making their jobs all the more difficult.

In 2023, both local healthcare and policing must finally become top priorities for the Scottish Government and staff given the resources and support they need to do their jobs as effectively as possible.

As ever, please know that my office remains open assist you and your family in any way I can throughout 2023 so please do reach out if you need.

I would also like to extend my best wishes to all local elected officials at the council, Holyrood and Westminster – although we may not always agree, we all want to make our society a better place and it’s important to remember that.

Finally, let me wish you all the very best for the year ahead!