OVER the last twelve months life has changed completely as we have dealt with the immense pressure of living with a global pandemic.

My immediate thoughts are with those who have lost loved ones as a result of Covid-19.

In Clackmannanshire, that is 110 families grieving because of a death caused by this horrible virus, and sadly many of those lives lost were in our local care homes.

As we emerge from our most recent lockdown, there should be only one priority for politicians and political parties: recovery.

Public services were already under immense pressure prior to Covid-19 and many are now in full crisis mode. Thousands are on waiting lists for treatment and will have to wait much longer for an operation. Half a million people have not received their cancer screening appointment meaning that some will be unaware that they have cancer and by the time it is diagnosed it may be too late to treat.

Additionally, many young people who have been referred to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services for support will have their referral removed without ever seeing anyone, and those who do get an appointment are unlikely to be seen within the legal waiting time guarantee.

Our focus much be on ensuring that those who need support receive it in a timely manner.

Access to healthcare should be as local as possible. Therefore, I am angry that NHS Forth Valley continues to reduce the GP out-of-hours service delivered from Clackmannanshire, now only operating on some days during the week and never at the weekend. Hundreds of local people share my frustration and have signed my petition calling for the cuts to the service to be reversed.

Those who have worked on the frontline throughout the pandemic deserve our full attention and effort to help the country and our public services recover.

That will take many years and we cannot be distracted by the issues that divide us, rather a collective effort is needed to help us protect jobs, health, education and local services.

One sector that has really risen to the challenge of the last twelve months is the charitable and third sector organisations in Clackmannanshire.

It was to the relief to many when I was able to secure funding for food parcels, Christmas gifts, stationary and activity packs to make sure that support was available to our most vulnerable groups.

Over the last decade I have been proud to have supported many local organisations and secure over £650,000 worth of funding.

That money has helped to employ staff, extend a community building, expand foodbank facilities, open a soup kitchen, and create community choirs and a dementia singing group.

The unfortunate reality, however, is it still doesn't touch the surface of the support that is needed to eliminate poverty and deprivation.

Clackmannanshire is my home and I have lived here my whole life. I deeply care about the issues that affect this community as they affect not only your family, but mine as well.

I am standing to be an MSP in my hometown because I believe I can deliver on improving the lives of the people across this area.

My focus will always be on the issues that are important to you, your family and our community.