I WOULD like to open this column by saying how tremendously grateful I am to everyone who took part in the employment fair which I hosted in Alloa Town Hall recently.

It really was a great opportunity for local people to come along and find out more about what training, apprenticeship, and employment opportunities are available across a range of sectors.

One of my favourite things about being an MSP is having the opportunity to visit some of the brilliant organisations which make our towns and villages into communities and that is certainly the case with the Wee County Men's Shed.

The Men's Shed is about promoting health and wellbeing amongst men in the Clackmannanshire area and the ways in which they do that have a real practical benefit throughout our communities.

It really was great to hear about some of the work that they have under way.

Another recent visit was to the Alloa Campus of Forth Valley College where I had the pleasure of meeting once again with the retiring principal, Ken Thomson, and took the opportunity to thank him for all his efforts during his time in post.

I very much look forward to getting to know the new principal, Kenny MacInnes, when he takes up post later this year.

Back in parliament, I was pleased to hear confirmation that a new Carer Support Payment will be the next payment to be introduced by Social Security Scotland, replacing the Carer's Allowance for new applications with a pilot programme starting by the end of the year followed by national launch in Spring 2024.

This will be the 14th new payment to be introduced by the Scottish Government in just five years. That has been no mean feat – building a social security system almost from scratch, and working with the people who actually use the system to ensure that it is one which treats people with dignity, fairness and respect.

Looking after people at home is, of course, the day to day priority. But nobody could fail to be moved by the horrific scenes of devastation coming from Turkey and Syria after the two massive earthquakes that struck the region earlier this month, causing a significant loss of life and severe damage to homes and infrastructure.

At least 35,000 people have died and many thousands have been injured. There are 17 million people in the affected areas, many of them now in urgent need of shelter, food and medical aid.

So, I am very pleased that the Scottish Government has been playing its part in the international response, sending financial support of £500,000 in emergency funding via the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to support the humanitarian aid efforts there.

As always, I know that there will be voluntary and community groups across Clackmannanshire keen to do what they can to add to the support that is being sent to the stricken area and the best way to do that is through the website at dec.org.uk