It’s very nearly 10 years since I was first elected to the Scottish Parliament on a wave of popular support which brought the SNP into government for the first time.
Being an MSP is a huge honour. Of course, it can be tough on occasion, but it gives me and my parliamentary colleagues the chance make lives better for people. That is an enormous privilege.
As I look back on the last decade, I can see that both here in Hamilton and across Scotland, the Scottish Government has really made a difference. Of course, Tory cutbacks and austerity measures present a huge and growing challenge, but we in the SNP have been determined to do the very best we can and we’ve had some terrific successes.
Take crime and youth unemployment, for example. Back in 2007, figures for both of these were above the national average in this part of Lanarkshire. Knife crime in particular was a huge issue.
That culture has now been tackled, we’ve won additional policing resources and we’ve started street projects. The end result is that there has been a significant decline and we’ve dropped below the average.
The same is true of youth unemployment. It’s dropped here in Hamilton - part of a Scotland-wide fall which means that we now have the second lowest figure in the EU and the lowest level here since records began.
In fact, we’ve made a huge commitment to young people. We’ve protected free tuition, which means that those studying In Scotland save up to £27,000 compared with England. That’s a massive debt burden our students are freed of.
Locally, we’re getting a fantastic new campus for the University of the West of Scotland - a project I’ve been involved in for the last eight years. And nationally, we’re providing more than 117,000 full time equivalent Scottish Government funded college places.
We trust our young people to make the right decisions, which is why we’re given 16 and 17 year olds the right to vote in Scottish Parliament elections and in May’s forthcoming council elections too.
At every level, we’re working to create a fairer and more equal society. We’ve built 54,000 affordable homes since 2007, and extended free high quality childcare to 16 hours a week to all three and four year olds, as well as to two year olds from low income households.
And the Scottish Government’s plan to protect the most vulnerable and deliver the best public services in the UK applies to healthcare too. We’ve protected free prescriptions, and our NHS is getting more than £13 billion this year - up by £3.6 billion since we took office.
I’ve also worked hard both locally and nationally on driving a strong equalities agenda forward. I’ve been a strong campaigner for LGBT rights and was delighted to see equal marriage introduced.
I’ve also scored success with moves against domestic violence and revenge porn - something I’m passionate about stopping and will continue to campaign against in my role as Convenor of Holyrood’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee.
Of course, there’s still more to do. Without a doubt, Brexit creates our biggest challenge for generations, and the Tories’ decision to push it through here despite a decisive Scottish vote for staying in the EU is nothing less than an insult to our democracy.
Now the Scottish Government is planning to take account of the huge political change since the 2014 independence vote and give the Scottish people a choice when it comes to our future. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is planning a new independence poll when the shape of Brexit is clearer. So our futures will be in our own hands. That empowers every single one of us.
Before that, though, you’ll get your chance to vote in the local elections in May. A SNP administration in South Lanarkshire will mean yet more delivery of things that matter to folk here. We’ll restore local pride and democracy and deliver real results in making Hamilton the best it can be.
It’s been a great 10 years, but I’ve not finished yet - not by a long way. I’ll keep fighting for you and with this Scottish Government, we can all look forward to a bright and exciting future.