AS I write this column, it’s Friday, January 31 – Brexit day. While there is still a year of transition to go, the UK has now formally left the EU.

In West Dunbartonshire, there was significant support for remaining within the EU, indeed our vote reflected the 62 per cent vote across Scotland.

Despite this, with England voting with a majority to leave, Scotland must yet again abide by what England has dictated for us and we have now been dragged out of the EU against our will.

The council, HSCP and other public bodies are doing what we can to prepare for the end of the transition period next year, but there is no doubt that leaving the EU will have a significant negative impact on our daily lives, not least of all on public services.

I want to echo statements made by the First Minister and already made by myself immediately following the referendum result; European nationals living and working in West Dunbartonshire should feel welcome here. You are our colleagues, neighbours, friends and family and we care deeply about you and how Brexit will affect you.

We do not want to be leaving our friends in Europe and the council will do everything we can locally and nationally through COSLA to keep as close ties as possible with Europe until such time that Scotland achieves our independence and can make the decision for ourselves to return to the family of nations.

Read more: OPINION Councillor Jonathan McColl: Thanking you, and now to set record straight

In more positive news, I was delighted to be sitting with finance convener, Councillor Ian Dickson at last week’s council meeting when he confirmed we expect to be in a position to set a balanced budget without making any cuts to services.

In spite of current financial constraint being placed on us by the UK Treasury, this will be the second year in a row that the SNP has been able to ensure valued local services are protected.

Councillors across the chamber expressed their gratitude for the prudent financial management that has led to producing this year’s budget estimates. It’s a privilege to lead such a fantastic team of SNP councillors and work with committed and talented council officers to ensure we deliver for our constituents.

I would also thank opposition councillors for their positive comments and hope that we can move forward with consensus when we meet to set the budget in March.