Aileen McLeod MSP
I would like to take this opportunity to wish all Galloway Gazette readers a happy Christmas and a successful and peaceful new year. It is a natural time to take stock of the last 12 months and look forward to the year ahead and also remember those who, for whatever reason, are not celebrating with us.
We should particularly remember the members of the emergency services who work though Christmas and the New Year to deliver essential services and keep the public safe.
Of course this past year has seen fantastic events in Scotland including the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup as well of course as the referendum on Scottish independence, which saw unprecedented levels of public engagement in politics and current affairs which have continued ever since.
Locally I am pleased that the concept of the St Ninian Ways to Whithorn as a long-distance walking and pilgrimage route is starting to take shape with a first meeting of local and national bodies to really start developing the idea and making it a reality taking place in early November. I hope that the project will really help toput Whithorn on the map as site of major historical and cultural significance with all of the benefits that can bring to the wider area too.
I know the New Year will bring challenges and opportunities for Galloway and for the whole country and I wish you all the very best for 2015.
Alex Fergusson MSP
Wow – that was the year that was! An unbelievably wet and late spring, followed by one of the best summers on record might well have been enough to make 2014 memorable but, when you add in the outstanding success of the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, it has to go down as a very special year in the history books. I didn’t manage to get to either of those two events, but was thrilled that both the games mascot and the Ryder cup itself made appearances in my constituency. Scotland put on her very best apparel – helped by the weather of course - and presented an open, friendly and united welcome for which she is rightly known across the world.
What a contrast that presents with the other major events of 2014 – the referendum on independence. That equally historic event has left a legacy of division and bitterness that is doing our country no favours at all. This atmosphere, if it continues too long, will begin to affect confidence to invest, both from within Scotland and the UK and from abroad, and that would be disastrous.
So, if I could make one wish for 2015, it would be that we Scots come together again as a people – united in a desire to do what is best for Scotland even if we might sometimes differ about how that can be achieved. We have a really important General Election in May – following which extensive new powers will begin to be devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Our arguments should be focussed on how to make best use of those powers rather than endlessly whinging about the extent of them.
May I wish each and every one of you a happy Christmas and wonderful New Year.
Russell Brown MP
As an eventful year comes to a close, I know many people will be looking forward to a well-deserved break and time spent with friends and family.
For many, it was another tough year with the cost of living crisis continuing to hit local families hard. Household bills are going up, but wages are falling. If there has been an economic recovery in the past twelve months, it is one that few families locally have benefited from.
2014 marked 100 years since the start of the First World War. As we remembered a generation of soldiers who risked their lives for Britain in the Great War, our thoughts turn to those currently serving in our armed forces– truly the best and bravest in the world. It is a time of year our heroes on the frontline are missed the most. It is particularly hard on the families left behind in the UK, and my heart goes out to them.
At this time of year we should also take a moment to remember those who will be working over the festive period. They are the unsung heroes, who often go unnoticed, but on whom we rely on when things go wrong.
Politically 2015 will be dominated by the UK General Election. It will be an opportunity to provide our country with a change of direction and a Government for the many, not the few. That however is a debate for the months ahead. For now, I wish you and your families a very happy and peaceful New Year.
Jim Hume MSP
2014 has been a busy year for me in the Scottish Parliament and across the region. Every year I seem to receive even more letters and emails on local and national issues than the year before, and this year has been no exception. But by far, the most talked about issue in 2014 was the independence referendum. I have always argued that the Scottish Parliament should have more powers so that we can build on existing devolved competencies, but I passionately believe that those powers should be transferred within the safety of a United Kingdom through a federal system, which works well in other countries. Voters across the South Scotland region gave a resounding no to independence in September, but whether you were in the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ camp it was fantastic to see the strength of public engagement during the campaign and I’m immensely proud to live in a democratic country where people can talk freely about their differing or shared views. The constitutional discussion will of course continue in the light of the Smith Commission recommendations, but as important as that is I hope that MSPs can now get back to the vital business of standing up for the communities we each represent. In the meantime as we approach 2015, I’d like to take this chance to wish readers a very happy new year.
Mike Cantlay, chairman VisitScotland
The thing about sport is that you don’t win by chance. To win, you need to want to win. To decide that nothing will stop you. Well in 2014, Scotland decided we were going to win the admiration of the world as hosts to the Commonwealth Games, and then the global TV spectacle of The Ryder Cup. For both to be acclaimed as the “best ever” is a truly astonishing accomplishment. On top of that, we enjoyed a breathtaking programme of more than 1,000 events in the Homecoming programme, touching every corner of the country throughout the year. I am unaware of any other country in the world our size which has delivered events on such a scale and with such prowess.
And Scotland is assuredly the winner. Tourism is bringing new jobs and prosperity across the country. It’s been fun too, with more Scots than ever buying tickets for events, organising events and volunteering. It’s the Scottish people that have taken Scottish tourism to the next level and it’s been fantastic to see events such as The Wickerman Festival, Big Burns Supper and The Wigtown Book Festival taking place in Dumfries and Galloway.
Yes, we opened our arms and laughed and cheered with our guests. We gave them directions, provided sunscreen and sometimes the odd umbrella. We didn’t just show them a good time – we joined in!
So how do we follow that? Well, with more fun. We have the perfect excuse as 2015 is the Year of Food and Drink, with events taking place across the country. In golf we’ll enjoy the pinnacle of the Open at St Andrews, with the Scottish Open at Gullane and the Women’s British Open at Turnberry. Plus Davis Cup Tennis, the World Gymnastics Championships, IPC World Swimming Championships, the World Orienteering Championships in the Highlands, European Judo and European Eventing in Perthshire. In music and culture, the Edinburgh Festival leads the world and this year Glasgow has the privilege of hosting the Turner Prize. So yes, in 2014 Scotland did indeed “welcome the world” but, assuredly, in 2015 the party will continue! Enjoy!