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Nicola Sturgeon thanks health and care workers in New Year message

Nicola Sturgeon has thanked health and care workers for “an absolutely magnificent job” in her New Year message to Scots.

The First Minister reflected that 2021 had been another year “dominated by the challenges of covid” – but she insisted people could now look forward to “a much better and brighter new year ahead”.

The SNP leader’s message was published as Scotland’s hospitality sector faces a second Hogmanay in a row of tough trading restrictions.

While pubs can stay open with table service in place, all nightclubs are shut on what would normally be one of the busiest nights of the year for the night time economy.

Scots are free to meet-up for the Bells – but official guidance urges people to restrict gatherings to no more than three households due to the sharp rise in cases of the Omicron variant.

In her New Year’s message, Sturgeon said: “2021 has been dominated by the challenges of covid.

“Throughout this year, our health and care workers have continued to do an absolutely magnificent job. And those working on our vaccination programme have provided all of us with an incredible service.

“Thanks to their efforts – and also thanks to the sacrifices of people right across the country – earlier this year businesses were able to reopen.”

She added: “The omicron variant is a very significant threat.

“It means that at the moment, we need above all to keep each other safe. We all need to stay at home, far more than we would want to at this time of year. And we have asked that you minimise new year socialising as much as you can.

“So this is not the Hogmanay we all wanted and hoped for.

“But I believe that we can still look ahead to 2022 with optimism.

“An important reason for that, is that so many of you, in the past few days, have gone out to get your booster before the bells.

“I am so incredibly grateful to you for that, and for all the other sacrifices you have made throughout this difficult year.

“In the coming year, our vaccination programme will continue to enable us, to make our way back to greater normality.

“And we will continue to work to rebuild our society and our economy – for example by supporting businesses in the move to net zero, and starting work to establish a new national care service.

“As we come through this pandemic, there will still, I am sure, be setbacks.

“But as we look back on the challenges we have faced this year, I believe we can also look forward to a much better and brighter new year ahead.”

In his New Year message, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said: “This time last year, the vaccination programme was in its infancy and results uncertain.

“Now the UK is to the fore in the global struggle against the virus, with the vast majority of us safer thanks to vaccines and – after the Herculean efforts of the NHS over the past couple of weeks – booster jabs too.

“I want to pay tribute to the scientists who made this possible by developing, innovating and testing; to the magnificent staff of the NHS and the volunteers who worked alongside them – and to the British military personnel who toiled tirelessly amid the greatest national effort of peacetime.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “This has been another challenging and difficult year. It will be remembered not just for the global fight against Covid, but for the individual sacrifices and acts of kindness everyone made.

“We have come so far in this fight – we must keep going, and we will get through this.

“But I’m not willing to go back to the way things were before the pandemic.

“As we enter 2022, lets resolve this year to not just accept that this is the way it is, but pledge to change it – to build a different country based on unity, empathy and hope.”

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