First Minister Focused On EU Vote In New Year Message

Nicola Sturgeon has said she is determined that Scotland's vote to remain in the European Union (EU) will be respected as she reflected on the past year and looked ahead to 2017 in her new year message.

The Brexit vote and the implications for the UK's constitutional future dominated politics during the second half of the year, which concluded with the publication of the Scottish Government's options to safeguard Scotland's place in the European single market.

The First Minister has said a second vote on Scottish independence remains ''highly likely''.

Unionist party leaders at Holyrood used their new year messages to emphasise their opposition to another referendum.

The First Minister said: ''We are working to safeguard the opportunities that so many people in Scotland now take for granted.

''We are determined that Scotland's vote to remain in the European Union will be respected - and that people in Scotland retain as many of the benefits of EU membership as possible, including the freedom to work, travel and study in other member states.

''New year is inevitably a time when we look to the future. I'm determined to ensure that we give our children and young people - Scotland's future - the support and care they need to live happy, healthy, fulfilling lives.

''I'm confident that in 2017, we will make further progress towards that goal. That's something which is well worth looking forward to.

''So, wherever you are - whether you're here in Scotland or further afield; whether you're at work, spending time on your own or with your friends or family - I hope you have a wonderful Hogmanay and a great new year. I wish all of you all the best for 2017.''

She also reflected on achievements during 2016 which saw the introduction of baby boxes of essential items for new mothers, the expansion of free childcare and progress on infrastructure projects including the Queensferry Crossing.

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson described 2016 as a time when the ''world felt that it shifted a little on its axis'', adding she hoped 2017 would bring ''more stability and moderation''.

She said: ''Here in Scotland, that means we need to focus not on creating further division and instability; but on improving services and supporting business to get our economy moving again - to help families who are struggling to get by.''

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: ''In 2017 we can lay the foundations of Scotland's future economic success.

''Being part of the UK is even more important to Scotland than staying in the EU and Labour will campaign with everything we have to protect that relationship across our isles.

''Remaining in the UK is good for jobs, it's good for our economy and it's good for our public services. Labour will never support the SNP's attempt to force another referendum on the people of Scotland.''

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: ''We need to put the politics of division behind us and focus on making Scotland a better country to live in.''

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