SCOTS can look forward to a “better and brighter new year ahead”, Nicola Sturgeon has said, despite the “very significant threat” posed by Omicron.

The First Minister accepted that coronavirus restrictions mean that this is “not the Hogmanay we all wanted and hoped for”.

In her New Year message she reflected on the progress made against the virus, as well as Glasgow’s hosting of the COP26 climate summit in November, saying it was “the most important international gathering ever held in this country”.

The First Minister described 2021 as being a year which was “dominated by the challenges of Covid” as she praised health and care staff and those working to administer vaccines, who she said had “provided all of us with an incredible service”.

Scotland has made “so much progress” in tackling the virus – but Sturgeon said while this was a “real achievement” it made the renewed threat posed by the Omicron variant “all the more cruel”.

She said: “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.”

That in part is down to vaccination, she said, thanking those who had come forward for booster doses.

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

The National: Nicola Sturgeon

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While she warned there could be “setbacks” as Scotland seeks to recover from the pandemic, she added: “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.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie 2021 added it has been “fascinating year” for his party, as a co-operation agreement with the SNP took them into government for the first time.

He said since then he and his fellow co-leader Lorna Slater had been “working hard” to implement that deal “which has as its core objective building a fairer, greener Scotland”.

He also said that while the COP26 summit “didn’t result in the kind of transformational action that is urgently required to tackle the climate crisis, there is no doubt that understanding of the issue has never been higher, and people are impatient for action”.

In his New Year video message to Alba Party members, former Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond said that “with every New Year comes a new hope”. In an address which highly praises those in the frontline of the Covid pandemic – health workers, emergency services and community activists – for service “above and beyond the call of any duty” Salmond is sharply critical of the political leadership.

He said: “While science gave us the weapons to fight the virus they have not been fully utilised. We have hardly made a start on vaccinating the planet and didn’t even boost enough of our own population before the inevitable variants arrived”.

Turning to domestic politics, Salmond predicts that the new Alba Party will find its role and impact as the “political force who sees the immediate priority of taking our county forward to independence”.

He added: “In order that we can mobilise the expertise, the resources the people of Scotland to heal and rebuild our country and make our own distinctive contribution to the world”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said taking over the leadership of his party in February had been “the greatest honour of my life” as he pledged to continue his efforts to rebuild Labour.

Scottish LibDem leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said it was “miraculous” that so many Scots had now received booster doses.