While for most of us the festive period is a chance to have a proper break and spend some special time with our loved ones, many people will continue to do their jobs over the holiday. This includes NHS, police and other emergency services and public service workers, as well as many other staff across all sectors of society who are delivering essential services. I want to say thank you to all these workers who help keep the rest of us safe and well during the holidays and throughout the year.

This is also a time to express our gratitude for the work of the various local community groups and charities which help and support individuals and families. Organisations like local foodbanks, the Pennypit Trust, Home-Start East Lothian, Our Community Kitchen, local day centres, and hundreds of other voluntary groups across South Scotland are especially needed at this time of year. They deserve our heartfelt thanks and support for everything they do.

Christmas can also potentially be a lonely and isolating time for some people. Please look out for any neighbours or others in your community who may perhaps be in need of some company or just a kind word over the festive period.

More formal help is also at hand. Samaritans Scotland’s confidential helpline is available for anyone who may be struggling or just looking for some support. Their volunteers are always there to listen and will not judge callers or tell them what to do. Anyone can call the helpline for free on 116 123.

Age Scotland’s national helpline (0800 12 44 222) also offers the opportunity to hear a friendly voice. It is open Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm, excepting Christmas Day, New Years’ Day, and closes at 2pm on Friday 22nd December.

Finally, I would like to wish all East Lothian residents a very happy Christmas and a peaceful and prosperous New Year.