This has been a year which many will wish to forget. It has brought sadness and despair, frustration and struggle. But it has also brought together amazing people and determined groups who have achieved wonders in their communities and especially for those most in need of food and clothing, comfort and hope.

The Covid pandemic has exacerbated many people’s anxieties and their practical problems. Like others, I have become more conscious of the deprivation which exists in our midst; yes indeed-even here in Moray. We aim to raise the general awareness of this so that more energy and resources could be concentrated to solve this long term problem.

Certainly there are coordinated and proactive efforts to ease people’s present difficulties. These involve elements of the Council and local charities. They have been assisted by the generosity of individuals and businesses across Moray as well by governments’ grants. Looking to the future, we will certainly need a social recovery plan as well as an economic one as we come though this pandemic.

I would like to praise the NHS and care staff and all our emergency services, our Council staff and teachers, our Armed Forces, and all those individuals and groups who have worked for the good of others in both a material and a spiritual way. We thank those who have been able to continue working to keep our economy going and to enable us to live our lives as normally as restrictions allow.

It has been uplifting to witness the way people in Moray have come together to look after each other. May this spirit of cooperation endure, encouraging positive actions rather than negative and divisive ones.

This year, we have been able to hold national commemorations- albeit in a reduced way. Christmas will also be a celebration with restrictions. But I pray that the seasonal spirit of goodwill towards one another will be truly alive and well. Enjoy this festive period with your families and friends, safely and sensibly.

Happy Christmas, and may the New Year usher in a better year for us all.