I am acutely aware that the cost of living crisis continues to bite hard for many households across Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, and indeed every corner of these isles.

I know that this is an extremely worrying time for people and that the continuing failure of the Tory UK Government to get a grip of rising costs and inflation is seeing many families having to choose between heating and eating.

In 2023, this is the harsh reality of this continuing Tory-made cost of living crisis.

The community response across the constituency has been amazing, and I wish to note my deep thanks to the dedication of the very many amazing community groups who have stepped up to provide warm spaces and larders in the hearts of our communities, recognising the huge need for a warm and welcoming safe space for folks to stop and chat and to access advice.

Meantime, the SNP Scottish Government continues to fight with one hand behind its back using the limited powers it has to make a difference to the lives of people in Scotland.

In November 2022 the Scottish Government increased the Child Payment in Scotland by 25 per cent to £25 per eligible child per week – a rise of 150 per cent in less than eight months benefitting the families of 400, 000 children in Scotland.

This has been lauded as a total “game changer” policy by respected third sector organisations who are now calling for the rest of the UK to follow suit.

And, in the short time since the unanimous passing of the 2018 Social Security (Scotland) Act the Scottish Government has introduced 12 benefits, seven of which are entirely new forms of financial support available only in Scotland.

Notably a recent report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) concludes that Scotland’s tax and benefits system is more progressive than the rest of the UK.

Whilst it is gratifying to see this recognition that policies being implemented by the SNP Scottish Government are making a real difference to the lives of ordinary Scots, we cannot escape that the austerity-obsessed Tory UK Government continues to hammer the most hard-pressed in our society.

They have been dishing out billions of pounds in crony contracts, and Boris Johnston is set to benefit from taxpayer-funded legal fees in his defence against party gate allegations to the tune of £220,000, despite reported earnings of nearly £5m since leaving Number 10 in disgrace last year.

You honestly couldn’t make it up.

Add to this that Rishi Sunak’s first hundred days as Prime Minister have been engulfed in yet more Tory sleaze scandals and corruption, whilst millions of families are struggling by as soaring inflation and the multi-billion pound damage of Brexit hammers household incomes.

It becomes clearer by the day that independence is the only way for Scotland to shake off Westminster control, escape the chaos that has been Brexit and build a stronger, fairer society as an independent country in Europe.