The First Minister has resolved to make 2016 a “year of optimism and ambition” as she set out enterprise and innovative public services as priorities for Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon used her New Year message to hail Scotland’s “can-do culture” as opposition leaders focused their attention on this year’s Holyrood elections.
Speaking at the Kelpies in Falkirk, Ms Sturgeon previewed Scotland’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design, with the park surrounding the sculptures hosting a festival of fire and light on New Year’s Day in one of the first events of the celebrations.
She said: “In 2016 and the years ahead, we will give strong support to the enterprise and innovation that will boost our productivity, increase our economic growth and create the skilled jobs we need for the future. Indeed, a commitment to innovation is one of the Scottish Government’s biggest priorities.
“We’re also determined to encourage entrepreneurship and help ambitious companies to grow. But our success won’t come just from entrepreneurs or scientists. I want to see a can-do culture define us as a country on every level.
“We intend to further improve our healthcare system, for example by transforming primary care; we will support our older population through the integration of health and social care; and we’ll pilot new approaches in our schools to improve opportunities for all of our children, regardless of their background.
“Let’s resolve to make 2016 a year of optimism and ambition. A year when we remind ourselves of our past achievements, but focus more on building an even better future.”
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale insisted 2016 would bring a new era for Scottish politics.
She said: “The election in May will be the most significant since devolution in 1999.
“With the major new tax and spending powers coming to the Scottish Parliament, the question won’t be which politicians do voters want to allocate a big pot of money. For the first time each political party will have to say where the money they want to spend is coming from.
“The rules of the game are changing. Saying you are for something but refusing to do anything about it just won’t wash any more. Those of us who say we are against Tory austerity will have to prove it with the decisions we take.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie also turned his sights to May’s election.
“The Liberal Democrats have championed the rights of Scots with poor mental health and proposed improvements to tackle the shortage of GPs,” he said.
“We’ve stood up for better police services following the M9 crash, armed police and excessive use of stop and search. Alone, we have argued against the reintroduction of primary school league tables. And we have successfully made the case to extend free nursery education.
“The Liberal Democrats have a positive vision of a tolerant, open, fair, free, economically vibrant and opportunity-rich country.”
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson used her message to thank the emergency services for keeping “our vital public services” going over the Christmas period.
She added: “Looking forward, I’m hopeful that – after the last few years of uncertainty – the year to come will bring greater security to families across Scotland.
“Here in Scotland, we know more jobs are being created and that unemployment is down.
“If we get the economy firing on all cylinders, I’m hopeful that in 2016 more people can find the dignity of a job and get on in life.”
Greens co-convener Patrick Harvie predicted his party would be “the ones to watch” in the Holyrood election.
He said: “Our post-referendum surge in membership was sparked by members of the public right across Scotland who wanted to shape the future of their country and we are well-placed to maintain that engagement.
“We already have first-rate candidates in place for May and our local teams are active across the eight electoral regions.
“2016 offers a chance to elect a Scottish Parliament that is bolder in devolving power to local level while also opposing Westminster austerity; a parliament that is serious about caring for our young and our old, and is committed to investing in the jobs of the future as we make the transition to a post-carbon economy.”