THERE has never been any doubt in my mind that the constituency I represent is a wonderful place to live and work.

It is great to see that recognised at a national level and I was therefore delighted to see Alloa named in the SURF awards as the most improving place in Scotland.

The SURF in question here is Scotland's Urban Regeneration Forum but I hope everyone involved in the Living Alloa Project is riding on the crest of a wave.

Tribute is due to the excellent collaborative working between Clackmannanshire Council, Alloa First and the Clackmannanshire Third Sector Interface. It really is a partnership that is paying off on so many different levels.

Of course, that doesn't deflect from the fact that we have problems to deal with. Rather, it shows the extent of the work underway that an award of this nature can be achieved at a time of such widespread economic difficulty.

The Scottish Government budget for the coming year was laid out in Parliament last week – in what the deputy first minister rightly described as the most turbulent economic and financial context that most people can remember.

War has led to the suffering and displacement of millions of Ukrainians. Energy and fuel prices are surging. Inflation is at a 40-year high. And, of course, the United Kingdom has added to the turmoil with a disastrous approach to Brexit.

These challenges are causing massive difficulties right across the public sector.

Nevertheless, this still remains a safer and more attractive place to be than many places in the world right now.

Most of us will be very familiar with the bible story of the Nativity but we should also remember what happened next. Mary and Joseph fled in fear of their lives from their homeland to Egypt and the prospect of a safer place to live and bring up their infant son.

That is a part of the story that Andrew T Davies, leader of the Welsh Conservatives, needs to read up on. He chose to tweet a picture of himself speaking at a Christmas lunch, accompanying it with the line: "There was no love for small boats here either."

He couldn't see the irony but in response to his comments it is important to highlight that fleeing war, famine and persecution and going to the ends of the earth in search of a better life is not a new thing. But it is exactly what those desperate people in the small boats are doing.

You can bet there would be no room in Mr Davies' Inn for a young unmarried couple with a baby imminent, searching for a place to stay!

Let's all try and spare more than just a thought for those less fortunate than ourselves this Christmas time, particularly, but also all throughout the year. Indeed, maybe that is worth bearing in mind as we start to think about New Year Resolutions.

I want to send all my constituents my best wishes this festive season and hope that the New Year brings peace, health and happiness.