The First Minister's New Year Message

31 December 2014, 05:02

Nicola Sturgeon has called for the enthusiasm and engagement of the independence referendum to be harnessed to build a better Scotland in 2015.

The First Minister reflected on an "extraordinary'' year in her New Year message as opposition leaders turned their sights on the general election in May.

Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to NHS and emergency service workers as she remembered those killed in the George Square bin lorry tragedy.

Speaking at Glasgow Southern General Hospital's maternity unit, she said: "Despite the great sadness of recent days, there is no doubt that 2014 has been the most extraordinary year for our country.

"Our economy has grown and unemployment has fallen. We hosted a hugely successful Ryder Cup and staged the best-ever Commonwealth Games.

"We had a referendum recognised around the world as a shining example of democratic engagement. A referendum that - regardless of which way you voted - empowered all of us in this country like never before.

"As the bells chime on Hogmanay, I hope that the spirit of empowerment that so lit up 2014 will guide us into the New Year. Let's resolve not to slip back to business as usual.

"Instead, let us harness the wonderful enthusiasm and engagement of 2014 and use it to build a fairer and more prosperous Scotland for these babies to grow up in.''

Ms Sturgeon said she would work to support and improve the NHS, expand childcare, close the attainment gap between schools, develop modern apprenticeships and create "opportunities for all''.

She said: "The simple fact is that if we can give every child here a fair chance to fulfil their potential, we will build a stronger, happier and more successful country.

"Doing everything I can to make that a reality is my New Year resolution and it is one my government - in partnership with many across our country - will be focused on throughout next year.''

Labour leader Jim Murphy used his New Year message to urge Scots to work together to remove David Cameron from Downing Street.

The party has introduced a new #1 membership rate for January to boost support.

Mr Murphy said: "After the divisions of the referendum, we have the opportunity to unite together to make Scotland the fairest nation on earth.

"There will be some Scots who plan to vote SNP or Green with the intention of removing Mr Cameron from office.

"But any seat the SNP takes from Labour in Scotland could mean handing David Cameron the keys to No.10 by accident.

"Only Labour is big enough and strong enough across the UK to remove the Tories from power.

"So, my message to every Scot who wants a fairer, more just and more equal nation is this - let's come together and make our movement stronger.''

Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said referendum differences should be set aside in 2015.

She said: "The political debate has been intense, which is as it should be. But now the big questions have been settled about where power should lie, attention needs to turn to how those powers are used.''

Improving schools, supporting the NHS, encouraging business and ensuring equal opportunity for all should be priorities, she said.

Ms Davidson added: "We know that there is more that unites than divides us and this New Year is the time to put old differences aside and work together to make a real difference.

"While a general election in May allows all politicians a platform to set out their vision, it is up to all of us to be prepared to work with others where we share a common cause. The people of Scotland demand no less.''

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said former first minister Alex Salmond's bid to be MP for Gordon would be the "big test'' of the year.

He said: "Alex Salmond wants to use May's general election to rerun the referendum he just lost.

"He wants to secure independence by the back door with his unstable, extreme form of devolution.

"But putting his party's policy ahead of local interests might not be what is wanted by the people of Gordon.

"I've been encouraged that voters of all persuasions are rallying behind our candidate Christine Jardine to put local interests ahead of the interests of Alex Salmond.''

Mr Rennie said his party would "put local interests first'' in similar contests across the country.

He added: "I know that our MPs, with their powerful track records, are best placed to win and win for their communities. It is important because there is so much at stake.''

Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie said his party would build on a surge of support after September's referendum.

He said: "A key issue of the May election here in Scotland will be the devolution of further powers and while the Scottish Greens are proud to have played a key part in securing agreement on powers over fracking, energy companies and railways, it's clear many Scots don't see the Smith proposals as durable.

"As long as Scotland remains at the margins of influence over the economy, workers' rights and foreign policy, we will continue to be subject to Westminster's whim.

"With a Scottish Green MP there'd be a real challenge to the Westminster consensus on austerity, tax breaks for big business and spending billions on weapons of mass destruction and the nuclear alliances that go with them.''