USUALLY this month, come rain or shine, we look forward to enjoying local gala days and fetes, or Clackmannanshire's flagship Famous Alva Games where competitors from across the country flock to the Wee County to take part in traditional Scottish sports and dancing – big days in the local calendar.

Of course, this year is different and we are all missing being able to share these fun occasions with our friends and families and I very much look forward to their return in 2021.

What has been encouraging throughout the pandemic is the strong community spirit that we have seen.

I have written before in these pages about the outstanding work of local volunteers and carers who have gone above and beyond in their support for others.

Our national success in tackling the virus is down to the instances of solidarity shown by our friends and neighbours.

No matter how small or big, every act of kindness has assisted others in our community and helped to protect them from the virus. I have been very proud of Clackmannanshire's response to the coronavirus.

The progress we have made nationally has meant that we are now consistently reporting single digit numbers in terms of daily identified cases and hospital admissions.

We should not underestimate the importance of this or forget how hard won this progress continues to be, especially when looking to other countries.

The good news is that we are carefully moving through the lockdown phases and are on track to enter Phase 3 in a few days' time.

For the first time since the start of the lockdown, we are now able to travel further across Scotland if we wish, visiting family or heading to the beach.

We are now able to support local shops and businesses that have re-opened. From Monday this week, outdoor hospitality like cafes and beer gardens have been able to re-open.

Looking ahead, businesses reliant on tourism have been preparing to re-open on the 15.

What is vital is that we do not drop our guard. I know that the recent announcement that schools will reopen on a full time basis in August was widely welcomed by families, but we must remember that this and other relaxation of measures are dependent on continued suppression of the virus.

It is hard but it is more important than ever that we stick to the guidelines over the coming weeks.

As always, I am happy to support the School Uniform Bank organised each year by The Gate.

The Uniform Bank plays an important part in relieving pressure on local families who, for many reasons, struggle to find the money to buy new uniforms and the pandemic will have only have made this the case for more families than ever.

I'd like to thank everyone who has donated so far – donations can continue to be made until Friday, July 10, at The Gate Centre in Alloa, between 3pm and 5pm and at Tesco and Morrison's Superstore Donation Station.

I'd encourage anyone who is finding it difficult to put a school uniform together to drop into Alloa Town Hall, week commencing 20thJuly between 11am to 3pm where help will be on hand.