NICOLA Sturgeon visited a maternity ward to deliver a New Year message that spoke of her commitment to creating a fairer country that would enable children to fulfil their potential.
At Glasgow’s Southern General Hospital, the First Minister also pledged her commitment to the NHS and reflected on the tragic accident that claimed the lives of six Christmas shoppers in the city centre.
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Ms Sturgeon paid tribute to NHS and emergency service workers, referring to the “huge debt of gratitude” owed to them for working throughout the festive period.
“The terrible events in Glasgow last week reminded us again of how much we owe our emergency services. Day in, day out, our police, ambulance and fire services go beyond the call of duty to look after us,” Ms Sturgeon said. “Our thoughts and prayers today remain with the bereaved and all those affected by last week’s tragedy, and our heartfelt thanks go to those who are rallying round to provide them with love and support.”
Looking ahead to 2015, Ms Sturgeon said it was “worth thinking about the babies in this maternity ward – and about the sort of country we want them to grow up in.
“These young children are lucky to have been born into an NHS that is free at the point of need. Your Scottish Government – a government that I am now proud to lead – is determined to protect that principle, and we will work every day to support and improve our public national health service.”
She also underlined her commitment to expand childcare for two-year-olds and move forward with more ambitious nursery proposals.
Her commitment to gender equality was confirmed when she said that the “baby girls in this maternity unit deserve the same chances in life as the baby boys”.
She also pledged to do more to close the attainment gap between schools across the country.
Looking back on the events of 2014, the First Minister described the referendum as a “shining example of democratic engagement” which had empowered all, regardless of which way people had voted.
“As the bells chime on Hogmanay, I hope that the spirit of empowerment that so lit up 2014 will guide us into the New Year. Let’s resolve not to slip back to business as usual.”
Ms Sturgeon’s rivals also issued New Year messages with a political theme.
The Lib Dem leader, Willie Rennie, said he was encouraged that people are rallying behind Christine Jardine in her battle against Alex Salmond for the Gordon Westminster seat.
Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said it was time to use Scotland’s powers to improve health and schools, now that the question over where power should lie had been settled.
And Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy claimed the only way to get David Cameron out of Downing Street was to vote Labour in May’s General Election. His New Year message was accompanied by an initiative to attract more people to Labour by offering party membership for one pound during January.
Labour membership is trailing in the wake of the SNP after Ms Sturgeon’s party surged to around 100,000 members after the referendum.
Mr Murphy said: “We were divided for one day last September but can be united in 2015.”
“There will be some Scots who plan to vote SNP or Green with the intention of removing Mr Cameron from office.
“But any seat the SNP takes from Labour in Scotland could mean handing David Cameron the keys to No.10 by accident. Only Labour is big enough and strong enough across the UK to remove the Tories from power.”
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