Support local businesses as they make welcome return
The good news that a raft of coronavirus restrictions have been lifted across Scotland is extremely welcome.
I'm particularly pleased the move to level three will help relaunch a range of local shops and businesses including the hospitality and tourism sector that is so important to the Dumfries and Galloway economy.
The door has also opened to allow additional retailers and other services such as gyms to emerge from the four-month lockdown.
I know from constituents who have contacted me in recent months just how costly and disruptive these essential measures have been.
Most people in the area have greatly missed the personal service, advice and ability to look closely at goods that local businesses can provide and I would encourage Free Press readers to support them as much as possible so they can continue to serve us in the future.
It is also important to me that the fine detail and impact of the latest changes filter down to local level and that issues such as the backlog in driving lessons and tests in places like Wigtownshire can be dealt with as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, Dumfries and Galloway Council have embarked on a phased programme of reopening facilities and are resuming a range of health and safety measures.
As can be seen by tragic events in other parts of the world it is important that we all remain vigilant and take all necessary precautions to limit any spread of coronavirus in its various forms.
I'd like to take the opportunity to again thank NHS Dumfries and Galloway on their continuing success with the covid vaccination programme which has progressed extremely well.
Also welcome is the expansion of lateral flow devices (LFDs) in Scotland giving people the chance to test themselves twice weekly. This regular testing helps trace people who have Covid-19 but do not show symptoms, thus further restricting the speed of the virus.
Taking up challenge of new multi-bin collection system
Home recycling with several bins has been the norm in many parts of this country and numerous nations worldwide for years now.
Whilst, from householders' perspective, less hands-on ways of reusing refuse have been operated in the region for some time through the Eco Deco plant, a full region-wide multi-bin approach is currently being phased in across Dumfries and Galloway.
The local authority, which used Wigtownshire for the initial introduction, is now distributing thousands more of the new multi-colour bins in a westwards direction across all four districts.
There has been a mixed reaction from some of my constituents, particularly those with limited space or mobility, and I welcome assurances from the council that they are working to alleviate those challenges.
In contrast, some residents have mentioned to me they would like the opportunity to recycle a wider selection of items to help reduce general landfill waste further.
The aim of reducing the amount of waste pollution is admirable, but I would urge the council to do their utmost to support householders experiencing difficulties until the multi-bin system becomes the workable new norm.
Hard-working team behind New Town Hall redevelopment plan
My warmest congratulations to the community-minded volunteers in the All Roads Lead to Whithorn charitable trust who are seeing their vision of a redeveloped Town Hall become a reality.
After four years of hard work the group now have all the funding in place to push ahead with the £2.8 million redevelopment of the New Town Hall with work due to start mid-summer.
The trust has announced that south-west Scotland based 3b Construction, which has a depot at Port William and employs local crafts people, has been awarded the contract after a tendering process.
I've seen the impressive restoration plans which retain the original front features of the building but include a major reconstruction completed to modern environmental standards, featuring a community hall, kitchens and a well-equipped mezzanine sports and fitness floor.
At the rear of the complex will be a purpose-built bunkhouse providing affordable accommodation for visitors, including walkers and cyclists completing the 149-miles Whithorn Way, which begins at Glasgow Cathedral.
Trust members, including their company secretary Julia Muir-Watt, have worked tirelessly to take this project forward, which I know was extremely challenging at times.
I'm absolutely delighted that work has been rewarded with construction set to begin in June and could be completed as soon as later next year.
The project preserves a landmark building in Whithorn but will also be a great community asset and further visitor attraction in this scenic and historically significant part of my constituency.
The group are also progressing an ambitious second project, costing £500,000, to create two energy efficient homes within the shell of the town's former Grapes Hotel.
Boxing star Tyler makes his mark in Eastern Europe
I'm pleased to see that the Bravehearts Amateur Boxing Club at Whithorn will be returning to their New Town Hall base once redevelopment is completed.
The young boxers and their coaches have done a fantastic job in helping put the town on the map in the sporting world and will train elsewhere locally in the meantime as Covid restrictions allow.
One of the best known members, Commonwealth Gold Medalist Tyler Jolly, has just taken part in a ten-day elete training camp in advance of the 'Belgrade Winner' international boxing tournament in Serbia.
Well done to Tyler for his fine performance in this elite competition in which he only narrowly missed out winning in a bout this week against a highly respected Kazakhstan fighter.
Avoiding SNP's second disruptive referendum remains top priority
There has been a more low-key approach to campaigning due to Covid-19 precautions as the important Scottish Parliament elections draw closer.
The poll on Thursday May 6 is very important and I urge everyone across Wigtownshire and beyond to cast their vote, if they have not already done so by post.
My own preference, perhaps not surprisingly, would be for Conservative and Unionist candidate Finlay Carson to be returned to continue his excellent work in representing local interests at Holyrood.
A native of the region, he has a good track record both as a councillor and later an MSP and intimately knows the issues that matter and concerns of local people.
Even if they are not your traditional choice, I respectfully suggest that a vote for the Conservatives in this election is the most effective way of preventing further division and the inevitable serious economic damage caused by the SNP's obsession for another referendum on splitting Scotland from the rest of the UK.
What we need is an administration at Holyrood which values a strong Scotland making the most of the extensive benefits, shared heritage, public expenditure and economies of scale which come from being part of the UK.
At local level, for example, where the A75 and A77 trunk routes have been the responsibility of SNP Ministers for 14 years, they have recently consistently rejected co-operating with the UK Government to bring forward a meaningful upgrading.
Remember to use both ballot papers on Polling Day.
Prince Philip's was a life well lived
I was sad to learn of the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, who, as we saw illustrated in a recent edition of the Free Press, made a number of well-received official visits to Wigtownshire and always made new friends.
The Duke’s well-known warmth and sometimes mischievous humour endeared him to local people from many walks of life.
His devotion and support to The Queen was unstinting and their marriage was a true and enduring partnership.
And through his fantastic Duke of Edinburgh Award scheme he played a key role in building the confidence, ambition and aspiration of generations of young people, including some years ago myself and my wife Ann.