NHS and care teams go above and beyond
The last few weeks in Wigtownshire have been particularly challenging following a surge in Covid-19 cases and my thoughts are very much with those who have lost loved ones or are experiencing the prolonged effects of the virus.
At time of writing there has been some improvement although NHS Dumfries and Galloway remain deeply concerned about the volume of cases and have rightfully put in additional testing resources.
I would like to echo some wonderful comments I've heard in recent days from many of my constituents who praised our frontline health and care workers.
The unfolding pandemic has been like a disturbing roller-coaster and for those dedicated to looking after patients experiencing life-threatening complications the challenges are immense and at times stressful.
In our region, where we have some excellent facilities such as the Galloway Community Hospital and Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary, the already intense pressure on staff has become even greater since this month's arrival of the new variant coronavirus.
As teams come off-shift tonight in all our NHS and other facilities and colleagues pick up the baton, there will naturally be a deep reservoir of compassion accompanied by understandable fatigue.
I believe I speak for all Wigtownshire Free Press readers in publicly highlighting how greatly the ongoing contribution of those combating covid in so many different ways is appreciated.
Their dedication is one of many reasons we should follow all the guidelines and try to do our utmost to limit the spread of this dreadful disease.
In the meantime, it has been good to see progress in the vaccination programme locally, which is initially focusing on those most at risk through their work or age.
Online 'supper' beamed worldwide
It was tremendous to see that not even a global pandemic could dampen enthusiasm for our national bard Robert Burns on the evening of his birthday.
My congratulations to the team behind the Big Burns Supper who staged a virtual event on Monday packed with breathtaking images, good cheer, Scottish culture and a star-studded line-up -- all hosted by comedian, writer and actress Janey Godley.
I'm sure the Bard would have approved of the event, which attracted a worldwide online audience of more than 326,000 people, including a good number from Wigtownshire.
The Big Burns Supper, a diverse festival of entertainment, may not have taken place as normal for social distancing reasons, but this was a well thought out substitute which will help promote future festivals together with Dumfries and Galloway as a destination.
For those who missed Monday night's show, it can still be viewed on YouTube and I'm told plans are already underway for next year's, hopefully closer to normal, Dumfries-based programme from January 21 to 30.
Investing in region's fishing industry
Fishing in its different forms has long been a feature of our coastal region.
And the significant change brought about through Brexit has inevitably caused disruption to fresh fish exports.
This was due to a period of major adjustment with new procedures and checks coinciding with the impact of a global pandemic and there are already signs that the process is beginning to be streamlined at the UK and EU stages.
Taking fuller control of our own waters will bring long-term opportunities.
I very much welcome the UK Government decision to offer up to £23 million support to help the fishing industry achieve sustainable solutions to the current unique set of circumstances.
Transport expert considers A75 options
It was good to have a further chat recently with Sir Peter Hendy, who is heading the Union Connectivity Review into the UK's future strategic transport needs.
He knows his subject well as you would expect from a chairman of Network Rail, who also has much additional experience of large-scale global projects.
Sir Peter's report will be independent and objective and I felt it was essential he was fully briefed on the importance of the A75 locally, nationally and internationally.
It will be interesting to read his interim assessment in a wide-ranging report due to be published in the near future.
If the UK Government increases strategic focus on the A75 I believe that should provide even greater opportunity for the Scottish Government to deliver on their trunk road responsibilities by upgrading the vital A77 to Cairnryan and north through Ayrshire.
Providing a voice for young people
I believe it is important for young people to play an active part in our democracy.
They are as likely to hold strong opinions on a wide range of issues as their older peers.
That's why I'm pleased to be joining fellow constituency MPs and MSPs from south west Scotland for an online chat this Friday with several Members of the Scottish Youth Parliament (MSYP) from our region.
Our local MSYPs include Hannah Birse, Halime Yildiz and Cameron Greer.
As well as being constituency representatives, the MSYPs are also part of Dumfries and Galloway regional youth council.
I'm looking forward to having an interesting chat and learning more about particular issues and campaigns MSYPs are dealing with currently.
Honours very well deserved
May I take this opportunity to add my personal congratulations to two very well respected Wigtownshire recipients of honours on the recent Queen's New Year list.
George McKenzie from Port William received the MBE for his work in maritime safety and in particular the village's volunteer lifeboat service, whilst Jessie Thomson from Wigtown was awarded the BEM for her extensive public-spirited work locally, including at the community shop and the local civic festival.
To George and Jessie and any other recipients with connections to the area, I offer you my warmest congratulations.