THIS Saturday sees the official opening of the Scottish Parliament, an even that was postponed from earlier in the year to allow for rates of the virus to fall.

Each MSP had the opportunity to nominate a local hero to attend the event; someone who had gone above and beyond for their local community during the pandemic and I was delighted to nominate Sauchie’s Keith Turner.

Keith is well known in the local area, having volunteered in Sauchie for over 30 years and has been instrumental in the success of Sauchie Community Group over the years. During the pandemic, Keith stepped up to ensure that so many in his community were supported and comforted, all at a time when his family were facing their own personal difficulties with the illness and loss of his son Calum to cancer earlier this year.

Calum was also a long-time volunteer with Sauchie Community Group, well loved by the local community and is sadly missed. As I welcome Keith to Holyrood on Saturday, I’ll also be thinking of Calum and the contribution he made.

The rate at which Covid case numbers are now falling is very encouraging but there is no room to be getting complacent yet.

The vaccination programme remains the most important tool we have in protecting as many people as possible from the worst impact of the virus while enabling economic activity and all the important interaction of daily life to carry on in the way that we all want to see.

I am really pleased, therefore, that here in Clackmannanshire, over 95 per cent of the population over 16 years of age have had their first dose and 90 per cent have had two jags.

It is really impressive how quick off the mark 16 and 17 year olds have been. Although they were first offered the jag only one month ago, the number who have had the first jag is already fast approaching the three-quarter mark across the whole of Scotland.

There are two more additions to the vaccination programme that have just come into play too.

Firstly, adults aged 70 years and over and those 16 years and over who are on the highest risk list (previously known as the shielding list) will be starting to get contacted either by letter or directly by their GP as the ‘booster’ jag is being offered alongside the annual winter flu jag.

Other eligible groups - including all those aged 16 to 49 years with underlying health conditions, adult carers, unpaid and young carers, adult household contacts of immunosuppressed individuals and all adults over 50 - will be able to book an appointment online from October.

Meanwhile, letters offering a vaccination to all 12-15 year olds who haven’t yet received their jab are also now arriving through letter boxes.

Parents and carers are encouraged to accompany their children to community-based appointments where possible so any questions they may have can be raised with staff on site.

As I have said, case numbers are falling and we do appear to be beating the spike but the position remains fragile, the NHS is under a serious amount of pressure and we must always be aware of the very real possibility that cases will start to rise again as we head into winter.

Let’s all continue to follow those mitigations that have been put in place to keep us all safe. Test regularly, wear face coverings in indoor public places, meet outdoors as much as possible, keep safe distances from one another and follow the simple hygiene guidelines.