I RECENTLY had the honour of chairing the panel to select East Renfrewshire’s Citizen of the Year.

We received a very high number of nominations this year, which made the job of the judging panel extremely difficult. The result will be announced at the full council meeting scheduled to take place on Wednesday, December 19.

Sifting through the nominations, it was humbling to see the range of voluntary work done by so many well-motivated local citizens.

These unsung heroes are a credit to themselves and to the wider East Renfrewshire community.

The extent of the hours of voluntary work put in by so many local people is staggering and I hope that the annual award of the East Renfrewshire Citizen of the Year goes a little way to honouring and recognising the scale of the good work undertaken in our community.

It is also a timely reminder to local elected councillors that these wonderful people who undertake such a range of voluntary work in our area are covering gaps in service provision.

It is hard for councils to cover every aspect of service need, particularly in times of financial pressure and government cuts to local authority budgets.

The work done by volunteers is absolutely essential in covering gaps in service provision and meets a real need in our community.

As Provost and on behalf of the whole East Renfrewshire community, I would simply like to say a heartfelt thank-you to all the volunteers for their hard work and the many hours spent in helping others who need help in our community.

It is particularly heartwarming to think of these unsung heroes at this time of year, as the run-up to Christmas can bring mixed feelings.

For many people, Christmas is a magical time of the year which is to be savoured and enjoyed.

As Provost, I particularly enjoy attending the many innovative nativity plays put on in our local primary schools.

The pupils are marvellous and it is truly a joy to be present.

For others, it can be a difficult time if it brings back memories of a previous sad event at this time of year, such as the passing of a loved one.

Unfortunately, Christmas memories are not always pleasant. One aspect of the run-up to Christmas which has always struck me as significant is that many people seem to be under stress.

Shops are too busy, queues are too long and sought-after items such as this year’s ‘must have’ toy are often sold out.

Frustration and tiredness can sometimes make customers and staff a little bit snappy and rude. Women, in particular, often seem stressed by Christmas preparations – no doubt because the bulk of the essential preparatory work is invariably done by mothers and grandmothers.

It is a timely reminder to the males in the household to pull their weight and help with Christmas preparations and not to leave the shopping for presents and buying of food to wives, partners and mothers.

Perhaps the message for us all is to pull our weight with Christmas preparations, be more thoughtful and offer help to those who need it.

If we all do our bit and not leave the hard preparatory work to others, we can collectively enjoy a deserved restful and peaceful Christmas period when it comes, with a clear conscience.