Christmas is a time of year when families and friends traditionally enjoy getting together with their loved ones to celebrate.
However for many soldiers of Scottish regiments serving in Afghanistan it will not be possible this year and they will be forced to spend the festive season apart from their nearest and dearest.
MSPs decided that one way they could show both their thanks and support for the work that the soldiers do and the sacrifices they make was to send an airmail letter to each of the Desert Rat Troops in Afghanistan who find themselves apart from loved ones over the Festive Season.
Kirkcaldy MSP David Torrance joined others from all parties to write an airmail letter, or “bluey” as it is known, as blue aerogramme letters are used as the main method for families to correspond with those in the armed forces.
To help launch the initiative and send the letters on their way, 101-year-old Jimmy Sinclair, a resident of Kirkcaldy and the oldest surviving Desert Rat, went through to the Scottish Parliament to accept the letters on behalf of his fellow soldiers, and hand them over to begin their journey to the troops.
Jimmy served with the 7th Armoured Division – nicknamed the Desert Rats – which eventually defeated German forces after years of bloody fighting. He served in North Africa, Italy and France and on one occasion survived a direct hit on his truck from a German fighter.
Jimmy is a friend of Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, whose father was a captain in the regiment, and to mark his 100th birthday, the Duchess and Prince Charles treated him to a surprise birthday tea at Holyrood Palace where he was presented with an engraved Caithness glass whisky decanter and glasses.
He is also a personal acquaintance of the son of Field Marshal Erwin Rommel, Manfred Rommel, an important statesman in Germany and former Lord Mayor of Stuttgart.
Mr Torrance said: “At this time of remembrance of the sacrifices that have been made by those serving their country in the past and the present, this letter is just a small way of letting the troops in Afghanistan know they too have not been forgotten. It also gives us the chance to show our appreciation for all that they do and to wish them a safe and speedy return.”