OVER Christmas and the New Year, many of us will spend time reflecting on the past year.

In politics, this year has been particularly difficult – both nationally and internationally – and while there are immense challenges at this time, positivity starts at home.

And though it may not always feel like it, we are all able to make a positive change in our own lives and in the lives of others.

The great humanitarian issue this year has, of course, been the rapid escalation of the Israel-Gaza conflict starting in October – particularly poignant at this time of year given the importance of the region to all three Abrahamic religions.

Displacement is a major theme of those religions, including in the Christmas story, and we should, in my view, be prepared to support refugees from the region.

On the topic of refugees, we must also not forget Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine which will soon enter its third year, and has itself generated thousands of refugees.

Personally, not long after the invasion began, I hosted a Ukrainian family prior to them moving on to more suitable accommodation. And I was proud to speak up for them and all Ukrainian refugees in a parliamentary debate earlier this week.

Recently, in parliament, we had a debate marking the 100th anniversary of the first woman elected to parliament from a Scottish constituency.

I spoke in that debate and took the opportunity to highlight the part played by other strong women who have broken the status quo of Scottish politics, such as Lavinia Malcolm of Dollar who was not only Scotland's first woman councillor but also the first female provost.

Scotland's first woman MP Katharine Stewart-Murray, the Duchess of Argyll, was a fascinating and complex character.

An aristocrat and unionist, after her election she seemed to become radicalised by what she encountered in Westminster and eventually fell out with her party managers, not least over her support for the left in the Spanish Civil War and her remarkable efforts to bring child refugees from that conflict to safety on these shores.

Christmas, and the winter in general, can be a stressful time. It is for this reason – among others – that many opt to use public transport over the winter months.

What can sometimes add to that frustration though, is when that public transport does not run as expected, and I'm aware that this is an issue locally, particularly with the bus service.

I've written to and met with McGill's Buses on a number of occasions to raise your concerns with them and ensure that they are aware of the situation on the ground.

I would like to end by wishing all my constituents, and the staff and readership of the Alloa Advertiser all the very best for Christmas and the New Year.