There is no doubt that 2017 was a turbulent year at home and abroad.
I was honoured to be re-elected as your MP at the snap General Election last June, allowing me to continue working hard for North Ayrshire and Arran’s communities. It is my privilege to do so and I look forward to a busy 2018.
In 2017 the threat to the Ardrossan Ferry servicing Brodick was seen off, many of us stood in the freezing cold collecting petition signatures to convey the strength of feeling about keeping this service; also, I organised, in partnership with our local MSP, two a very successful Employment Fayres and our first extremely busy Funding Fayre.
Further afield, we often watched aghast the political rollercoaster of the Trump presidency and the continuing flux in the aftermath of the Brexit vote. Whilst international efforts against nuclear proliferation resulted in the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, the UK Government, disappointingly, refused to participate in this hugely positive step to rid our world of such weapons.
This was also the year when the SNP Government banned fracking in Scotland.
New Year is a time for looking forward. Given the past 12 months, 2018 will undoubtedly be eventful, with many positives to look forward to.
Our First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, remains utterly committed to a fairer, more prosperous Scotland. SNP Government plans to lift the public sector pay cap and give Scotland's public sector workers the pay rise they deserve have been widely welcomed. Despite UK Tory Government cuts to Scotland next year of £211 million, schools, hospitals and other vital public services will be provided with the resources needed to deliver better services for all, raising educational attainment funding from £120 million this year to £179 million next. This continued investment is crucial to ensuring the best possible life chances for every child in Scotland.
This focus is very evident in the ground-breaking work with care-experienced young people who will see further progress in improved access to education and support, with the ability to influence policy in ways which reflect their lives.
Families with younger children will welcome progress towards the near doubling of childcare provision and early education, delivering welcome support to families, along with important nursery education.
Crucially, young people leaving school in 2018 can attend university without the burden of £9,000 a year tuition fees being imposed, as under Labour in Wales or £9,250 a year as in England under the Tories, thanks to the SNP Government’s commitment to free tertiary education.
In winter, the prospect of being homeless is chilling in every way. The SNP Government is therefore investing £50 million in the 'End Homelessness Together' fund. Provision of affordable housing remains a priority. The SNP Government’s Draft Budget committed to increasing investment next year by more than 20% to help ensure delivery of 50,000 affordable homes in Scotland by 2021.
At Westminster, I am determined to: continue campaigning for the many local women born in the 1950s affected by the 'WASPI' pension issue; work to stop the blight of nuisance calls and pursue better treatment of consumers as SNP Consumer Affairs Spokesperson, whilst opposing austerity, pursuing the Ayrshire Growth Deal, which the UK Tory Government has so far failed to progress, and fighting for Scotland to secure the best possible Brexit outcome.
While 2018 will bring challenges and change, along with my SNP colleagues, I look forward to getting on with the job, working hard for everyone in North Ayrshire and Arran and building a better future for everyone in Scotland. I wish everyone a happy and prosperous New Year!