New Year messages: Brexit’s big issue

Scotland’s political party leaders have issued their New Year messages via BBC Scotland, as Brexit promises to dominate politics in 2019.

Nicola Sturgeon sought to assure European Union migrants that they would always be welcome in Scotland.

Jackson Carlaw, the Scottish Conservatives interim leader, said there was “cause of optimism” as the UK begins its departure from the EU.

And Scottish Labour’s Richard Leonard called for renewed “ambition and hope” in politics.

Patrick Harvie, the Scottish Green’s co-convener, said his party was ready to offer a “positive vision of a sustainable future and a fairer, more equal society.”

Meanwhile, the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie said he wanted to push for unity in 2019, rather than “bitter division”.

Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister

General Assembly of the Church of Scotland 2018The Scottish government will work “to protect Scotland’s place at the heart of Europe” in 2019, Nicola Sturgeon has said in her new year message.

The first minister said: “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.

“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.”

She said that, whatever the outcome of Brexit, Scotland would always welcome visitors from around the world.

“In fact, our reputation for being an open, warm-hearted, hospitable country has never been more important,” she added.

“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.”

Jackson Carlaw, Scottish Conservatives interim leader

Jackson Carlaw, who is the Scottish Conservatives’ interim leader while Ruth Davidson takes maternity leave, said there was cause for optimism about the future.

He said: “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.

“And it’s only a statement of the obvious to say that there are many views across the country about how best to travel.

“For many of those people who, in 2016, supported a new future for Britain outside the European Union, this is an exciting and liberating moment and offers the promise of something better.

“But for those who wanted to stay, many are understandably uncertain and nervous, angry even. That is the nature of changing times.

“The next few weeks will be a momentous moment in our country’s history – and none of us can predict exactly how it is going to turn out. 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.”

Richard Leonard, Scottish Labour leader

Leonard Richard 1Richard Leonard used his new year message to highlight the upcoming 20th anniversary of the opening of the Scottish Parliament by Donald Dewar.

Mr Leonard said the former first minister’s speech was “full of ambition and hope”.

He continued: “Twenty years on, what has happened to that ambition and hope? Poverty, homelessness and food banks now so rife they’re almost taken for granted.

“Our National Health Service, schools and local services stretched to breaking point. An economy flagging and manufacturing jobs lost.”

He said the power Scotland now had was not being used to improve people’s lives.

“So we must renew that founding spirit,” he added. “That ambition, that power can mean real change.”

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens co-convener

Harvie Patrick 3Patrick Harvie hailed a “new wave” of political engagement which has risen in 2018 as the “foundations of our democracy” were tested.

“From a fresh generation of climate campaigners who refuse to accept the current inaction, to the Green New Deal movement in the US showing that a rational and science-led response to environmental challenges can offer hope for a better life for their citizens,” he added.

The Scottish Greens co-convenor said he wanted to halt Brexit and “safeguard” Scotland’s future in Europe.

“So 2019 looks set to be just as challenging as the year gone by. 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.

“In parliament, in councils, and in every community in the country, we’re resolved to keep putting those values into practice.”

Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrats leader

Willie Rennie alluded to the fallout from Brexit as he described 2018 as a “chaotic and divisive year” in his new year message.

“We need to draw a line under it and use 2019 to get back on track,” the leader of the Scottish Lib Dems said.

“People who play their part in their community should have the opportunity to get a decent job, afford their own home and rely on good public services, with a government on their side.

“That’s not the reality for millions of people in our country today.”

He added: “We have a real opportunity this year to push for unity, rather than bitter division.

“To stand with our neighbours in the UK and Europe because through partnership we can achieve so much more. Pushing power away from central government and into communities is important too if we are to reflect the rich diversity of our country.”

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