NICOLA Sturgeon today uses her New Year message to underline Scotland’s reputation for being an “open, warm-hearted and hospitable” nation.

In a recorded video, released this morning, the First Minister highlighted the plight of citizens from other European countries who have settled here – some of whom are today pictured in The National – and because of Brexit may now be worried about their future status.

“One of the things we should be proud of, at Hogmanay, is the number of people from around the world who come to Scotland to see in the New Year,” she said.

“They come in part because of Scotland’s reputation for offering a warm welcome for all. That’s a reputation we should cherish. And it’s one which will endure, regardless of the changes we may see in 2019.

“Scotland will always offer a warm welcome to the world. In fact, our reputation for being an open, warm-hearted, hospitable country has never been more important. I want to make that especially clear to the hundreds of thousands of nationals from other European Union countries, who have done us the honour of choosing Scotland as their home. I know that this is a deeply uncertain time for you. But I also want you to know that your contribution to our national life – to our economy, communities and society – is hugely valued. You will always be welcome here.”

Her message reflects the position she has repeatedly taken following the EU referendum in June 2016, in particular when she criticised Tory ministers who suggested the 3 million EU nationals living in the UK could be used as “bargaining chips” in the Brexit negotiations.

Scotland faces being pulled out of the EU in less than three months despite 62% of voters north of the Border voting to remain but the First Minister said her government will work “to protect Scotland’s place at the heart of Europe” in 2019.

“In the year ahead, the Scottish Government will continue to do everything we can to protect Scotland’s place at the heart of Europe,” she said.

While Brexit was a key focus of her message, she also pledged to make Scotland “a greener, fairer and more prosperous country”.

She continued: “Of course, 2019 will not simply be about Brexit. We will also keep on with the day to day business of government. We will redouble our efforts to support and invest in our key public services – such as the NHS and our education system. We will continue our expansion of childcare, and press ahead with our new Scottish system of social security – making life fairer and helping those most in need.

"And we will take action to support business and the economy, while also showing global leadership in tackling climate change – undoubtedly the greatest challenge currently facing the world. Through all of this, we will help to make Scotland a greener, fairer and more prosperous country. We will create a better society for everyone who lives here.”

READ MORE: It’s going to a big year globally – and hopefully for Scotland, too

The National:

Patrick Harvie is also emphasising Scotland's international ties

Meanwhile, Scotland’s opposition party leaders also issued their messages for the coming year.

Scottish Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie, said: “We can safeguard our future in Europe, and the next few months will be critical if that hope is to become a reality.”

He added: “The Greens are ready to offer our positive vision of a sustainable future and a fairer, more equal society; an internationalist Scotland ready to take its place on the world stage and to build peace and friendship instead of fences and walls.”

Scottish Conservative interim leader Jackson Carlaw said there was cause for optimism about the future.

“There is no getting away from the fact that, as we look ahead at 2019 and our departure from the EU, the path we’re about to take is hard to make out,” he said. “But as we go through this period, I believe that we all have good cause to do so with a well-grounded optimism in our future,” he said.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard did not mention Brexit. “The power we have is not being used to make people’s lives better. So we must renew that founding spirit. That ambition that power can mean real change,” he said. “That is what Scottish Labour stands for. And what we will fight for in 2019.”