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This is the time when we traditionally look back over the year that’s coming to a close. 2020 has been a year none of us will ever forget. We have faced one of the biggest peacetime crises in our history, a crisis that has taken the lives of over 6,000 people in Scotland and brought distress and heartache to almost every family in the country.

The lockdown earlier in the year and the ongoing restrictions have had a serious impact on people’s jobs and livelihoods. We’ve all been affected to a greater or lesser extent by being unable to spend time with family and friends and there’s no doubt that a lot of people’s mental health has suffered.

On top of this we have the looming prospect of Brexit which still threatens to cause severe disruption to the movement of essential supplies between Britain and mainland Europe and which, even without covid-19, is likely to cause lasting damage to our economy.

There’s certainly been no shortage of bad news in 2020 and it’s not surprising that many people are looking forward to 2021 with dread rather than with hope but if we look for them we can find reasons to be more hopeful.

It’s impossible to list all the people who have gone to extraordinary lengths this year to keep us safe and to keep our essential services working. NHS and Care workers have rightly won our thanks but we should also remember many other occupations where people have continued working on our behalf, sometimes in circumstances where they were worried for their own health. I’m thinking about food shop workers and those who worked behind the scenes to get supplies to the shops; farm and food processing workers; Royal Mail staff; public transport workers; the engineers and others who have kept our gas, electricity, telephone and internet services working ; local authority workers in dozens of different jobs; the staff and volunteers who keep so many vital Third Sector organisations going; and many more.

And, of course, the tens of thousands of ordinary folk who have gone out of their way to keep an eye on vulnerable neighbours, who organised food and clothing collections for those in need, and who in so many ways made sacrifices to help others.

My heartfelt thanks go to all of you. You’ve helped us to remember there’s a huge reserve of goodness in every one of our communities and that in what can seem like a selfish and uncaring world the vast majority of people do actually care. That, more than anything else, convinces me that by the end of 2021 things will look much brighter than they do today.

And while none of us will be able to celebrate Christmas in the way we’re used to, the true meaning of Christmas is still the same.

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