As regular readers of my column will know, space, and specifically the Prestwick Space Port, has been a keen interest of mine since becoming an MP in 2015.

The speed at which the space sector has grown in Scotland during this time is incredibly exciting, and there are many opportunities which will come with its development in the future.

I have been extremely fortunate to attend a variety of events and meet many people connected with the industry, worldwide, not least when I was invited to talk about Scotland’s space sector at Houston Spaceport earlier this year. 

As such, I was delighted, last month, to attend a fantastic event at the Halo in Kilmarnock on ‘Creating a New Tomorrow’s World for Our Children’s Children’.

The hugely inspiring Dr Kate Rubins, a microbiologist and NASA astronaut, gave a fantastic presentation to the assembled school pupils, ranging from junior primary to senior secondary, and was happy to answer all their diverse and challenging questions on all aspects of life in space. 

I was lucky to take part in a downlink from the ISS, during Dr Rubins’ last mission in 2020, which included Prestwick Academy along with schools in Ecuador and Houston, so it was lovely to meet her in the flesh.

While she is listed to possibly go on the next lunar mission, the strength of Scotland’s space sector lies in designing, making and launching small Earth-Observation satellites which study and, by measuring emissions or changes due to the climate crisis, can help us protect the beautiful blue planet we live on.

There are lots of varied opportunities in Scotland’s space industry and, with Prestwick’s current aerospace cluster and future Spaceport, many of those opportunities are literally on our doorstep. Hopefully we will see more Scottish pupils and students aiming for the skies.

With schools back, I was delighted to visit Struthers Primary having been contacted by their Rights Respecting School Committee regarding the importance of access to vaccinations for all children.

As their MP, the pupils wanted to share UNICEF’s report: ‘For Every Child, Vaccination’ with me to highlight the significant and dangerous deterioration in immunisation rates around the world during the pandemic, which has left children exposed to the risk of diseases like measles and polio.

As chair of the all-party group on ‘Vaccinations for All’, I am all too aware of falling vaccine uptake rates and know that this has also become an issue closer to home in recent years, with statistics showing uptake dropping across the UK and Europe.

Indeed, I know parents locally have been contacted recently asking them to check that their children have had both doses of the MMR vaccine due to a worrying increase in measles.

One of the issues is complacency, with many people never having seem someone affected by polio and/or thinking that measles is a minor illness, despite it causing about 140,000 deaths each year as well as complications including pneumonia and brain inflammation.

I was very impressed by the pupils’ general awareness of the situations faced by children elsewhere in the world as well as their perceptive questions and really enjoyed our wide-ranging discussion.

It was lovely to see such large crowds turn out again this year for Marymass and, after the crowning ceremony, I was delighted to be able to join the parade to Irvine Moor led by the Queen and her ‘Marys’.

The weather stayed dry and mostly bright for the day’s festivities, and it was great to be part of the celebrations.

It is such an important festival for the town, which takes a huge amount of organising, and I send my thanks and congratulations to the extensive list of volunteers involved in delivering multiple successful events over the 12 days.