In her new year message, she praised the “most extraordinary dedication” of health and care workers and volunteers who helped others during the coronavirus pandemic, and urged people to “show each other kindness, compassion, and love”.
In her address to the nation on New Year’s Eve, Ms Sturgeon said 2021 can be Scotland’s “year of recovery” as Covid-19 vaccines are rolled out.
Speaking about the relief many will feel at the year coming to an end, she said: “2020 has been unimaginably difficult; thousands have lost loved ones, our society has been upended, our economy has taken a severe hit, many have lost jobs, families have had to cancel holidays, and of course Christmas plans had to be cancelled too.
“We have had to deny ourselves so many of the things that we most value in life, human companionship, hugs from loved ones, the comfort and the pleasure we get from meeting and spending time with each other.
“I can simply never thank all of you enough for the sacrifices you have made, and the patience you have shown, during these last difficult months.”
Praising those who volunteered for vaccine trials and Scots who helped charities, businesses and people in their community during the pandemic, Ms Sturgeon added: “These have all been points of brightness in dark times. They have reminded us again of what truly matters in life – kindness, compassion, solidarity and love.”
Calling for people to “stick with it and stick together”, she continued: “As we look forward to 2021, for all the difficulties that still lie ahead, there is a lot we can now look forward to.
“Tens of thousands of people in Scotland have now received their first vaccination against Covid.
“And that number will grow in the weeks and months ahead.
“2021 will also see the expansion of free nursery care, the introduction of the Scottish Child Payment to tackle child poverty, and the first full year of Scotland’s new investment bank.
“As we rebuild after this pandemic, we can, we must, focus on making Scotland a fairer country and a greener country.
“And of course, towards the end of the year, the eyes of the world will be on Glasgow, and the COP 26 climate change summit – a gathering that has the potential to set the whole world on a path to a more sustainable future.
“So even as we reflect on this darkest of years, we can see light ahead.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack also thanked frontline workers who responded to the pandemic with “collective resilience, compassion, and generosity”.
In his new year message, Mr Jack said: “I want to send my deepest condolences to all those who have lost loved ones to this cruel virus.
“We must not lose sight of the individual lives behind the statistics and we must keep working together to ensure that we defeat this virus for good.”
In a more political message, he argued the “great deal” negotiated with the EU will open up new global opportunities for Scottish businesses, and he cautioned against another independence referendum.
He added: “With the UK pulling together, 2021 will put us firmly on the road to recovery.”