HAPPY New Year!

I’ve never quite figured out exactly what date you stop wishing people a happy new year but, as this is my first column of the year, can I wish all Greenock Telegraph readers a very happy new year. 

Like every new year I hope this is finally the year that Morton will win the Scottish Cup or get promoted the the Premier League. We can but hope.

However, in the absence of a great Morton triumph to celebrate this year I would be happy to settle for Scotland voting to become an independent country, so over to you Nicola.

I’m sure we will all have things we hope will happen this year.

I hope some of you even manage a wee lottery win, but there is a lot going on already that we can be thankful for. 

As you will know if you were stuck in the snow the other week, or if you’ve been out scraping the car in the morning, this winter has already proved to be a colder one than usual.

The big freeze is here and our local doctors’ practices and hospitals have had a massive increase in demand because of this. 

It’s no surprise as ever to see politicians use spikes in demand in the health service to score cheap points.

Naturally with more accidents likely to happen in icy conditions and a record bout of cases of flu in Inverclyde, there has been a lot of pressure on our health and hospital staff. 

However instead of criticising our NHS as some seem to do, it’s at times like this I’m most thankful for the service we have here in Inverclyde and Scotland. 

Across the pond in America people have to get themselves into more debt than they earn in a year to pay for vital treatment at a time when they need it most. Perhaps the NHS, an institution that the vast majority of us have always known, is now taken for granted. 

I know first-hand just how good a service the staff provide when I had a complication in an operation to remove a burst appendix that resulted in peritonitis. And it didn’t just stop there.

A further 10 weeks of medication, countless visits to the GP practice and follow-ups with the consultant were all part of the service. 

I don’t think I could ever thank our NHS staff enough, and I’m not even counting the umpteen visits to A&E over the year for all the broken bones as a goalkeeper or all the other stuff through my life. 

I once sat and tried to work out how much all the treatment I’ve received from the NHS would’ve cost if I lived in a country like America. The reality is that wee lottery win I wished for you earlier wouldn’t even cover it. 

Therefore can I just say – and I hope I speak for all Greenock Telegraph readers – if you are a nurse or a doctor, a cook or a cleaner, one of the team of porters at IRH or a clerical worker, ambulance staff and paramedics, if you’ve been playing your part caring for our sick friends and family members, on behalf of a very grateful councillor and for all of Inverclyde, ‘thank you’.