This is my first column of 2024 and I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone in Carrick, Cumnock, and Doon Valley a very happy New Year.

2024 will be a big year for politics as we head to the polls for the UK General Election.

We will all have an important choice to make.

The current Tory administration has left a trail of incompetence and chaos, while Labour offers little from the status quo.

Alternatively, sending SNP representatives to Westminster provides an opportunity to advocate for a fairer and more prosperous independent Scotland.

The Scottish Government has put forward a budget, under challenging financial circumstances, which funds progressive policies to support the most vulnerable in our society and create economic growth.

I am particularly pleased to see that my Ministerial Portfolio of Drugs and Alcohol Policy has funding maintained as an area of priority to allow us to tackle drug and alcohol-related deaths.

2024 will see me continue my work in our National Mission on Drugs to make sure that everyone in Scotland, regardless of personal difficulties they face, is treated with respect and dignity.

I want to also highlight the support that is being offered to those living with disabilities.

The Independent Living Fund, which supports disabled people, is to reopen to new applicants after receiving a £9million investment from the budget.

This fund was closed to new applicants by the UK Government in 2010 and the Scottish Government took responsibility for existing payments in 2015.

We have now committed to reopening it in September.

People who are affected by Government policies must have a say in their design.

That is why a consultation is now open on the Learning Disabilities, Autism and Neurodivergence Bill.

The Scottish Government wants to hear your views to ensure we protect and champion this community. Please take part at

Finally, if there is anything I can do to assist you this year as your constituency MSP, please get in touch with my office by emailing or call 01290 319126.