LAST week pupils across Clackmannanshire and Scotland received their exam results and I would like to extend my congratulations to all our young people and their teachers for all their hard work and effort.

Exam results are not the final destination and there are now more opportunities than ever available – whether that be further study at school, college or university, a Modern Apprenticeship or moving on to employment.

For anyone not too sure about what path to take next, I'd encourage you to seek the support and guidance available to help make the right decision for you.

The total number of students from Scotland getting a place at a Scottish university hit a new record of 27,830.

Meanwhile, the number of students from Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas who have successfully gained a place at university according to the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) had increased by 13 per cent. This is encouraging news for young people in Clackmannanshire which has some of the highest levels of deprivation in Scotland.

I believe that everyone with the ability and talent to go to university should have the opportunity to do so regardless of their background.

These new figures show that, year after year, we are making progress and the SNP Government will continue to do all it can to widen access and ensure all of our young people, regardless of circumstance, are given the opportunity to succeed.

The summer offers communities across Clackmannanshire the opportunity to get together and celebrate their local area.

There have been some fantastic events from fun days to galas to entire weeks of events showcasing some of the wide range of activities which go on in our towns and villages.

This week is Tillicoultry Community Week and is a great example of all sections of the community coming together.

I was delighted to attend the Taste of Syria event which was hosted by some of the refugee families who have joined our local community.

Of course none of these events would take place without the hard work of the volunteers who give their time and commitment to ensure that they are successful and I’d like to thank everyone across Clackmannanshire who has played their part in making our communities thrive.

It’s very often community councils who drive events in their local area and I would encourage people to consider standing for election to their community council.

Nominations have opened for community councillors in Alloa, Tullibody, Cambus and Glenochil, Clackmannan and Kennet, Dollar, Forestmill and Menstrie.

This is a good opportunity for people to get involved in shaping the future of their local area.

I am delighted that Alloa has been successful in making the final shortlist in the Most Beautiful High Street Competition which is run in partnership with The Herald, Keep Scotland Beautiful and Scotland’s Towns Partnership.

Voting is now open and you can cast your vote at _beautiful_high_street

This is a fantastic achievement and I was delighted to catch up with the Alloa Town Centre BID team to find out more about the entry and their future plans for the town centre which includes the roll out of free wifi following a successful funding bid from the Scottish Government.