As the saying goes, there is never a dull day in politics, and I have experienced that for myself this year.

I was honoured to take up the position of Minister for Drugs and Alcohol Policy. This is a privilege and a challenge.

While progress has been made in the fight against problematic drug and alcohol use, 2024 calls for a continued push to create a Scotland where everyone, regardless of their struggles, is empowered and treated as equal citizens.

In addition to my work in Government and Holyrood, the best part of my job is getting to meet and help people from across my constituency. I am continually amazed by the initiatives and achievements that bring our community closer together.

One organisation I want to highlight at this time of year is the Night Before Christmas Campaign based in Annbank.

Jodie McFarlane and her team of volunteer ‘elves’ make up Red Bags Full of Joy that are given to children who would otherwise wake up to nothing on Christmas morning.

Foregoing Secret Santa, my team and I donated to the charity instead. I was beyond impressed with the progress made since summer with several shipping containers full of presents ready for Santa to deliver.

The Night Before Christmas Campaign mirrors the year-round community spirit in Carrick, Cumnock, and Doon Valley. Countless individuals dedicate time, money, and talents to improve our area. This is what Christmas means to me – time spent with others to bring joy.

As we bring in the bells, I'll reflect on the remarkable people of 2023, and anticipate what 2024 will bring. For a politician, remembering the community that entrusted them with their role is essential. My gratitude goes out to you all.

I wish you all a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.