Politics

Political leaders look to 2022 with ‘optimism’ despite trials of past year

NICOLA Sturgeon has warned of more “setbacks” to come in the fight against the coronavirus in her New Year message, but also grounds for optimism in 2022.

The First Minister paid tribute to the “abolutely magnificent job” done by health and care workers in a year “dominated by the challenges of Covid”.

She said there had been progress, with vaccinations and boosters, businesses reopening, schools staying on in the autumn, and public services remobilising.

“But of course it also makes it all the more cruel that now – so late on in the year – we are facing a new challenge. 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.

“This is not the Hogmanay we all wanted and hoped for. But I believe that we can still look ahead to 2022 with optimism.”

She forecast a return to “greater normality”, and cited the Scottish Government’s plans on climate change and a new national care service, but did not mention independence.

“As we come through this pandemic, there will still, I am sure, be setbacks

“But 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.

“So as you see in the bells, I want to take the opportunity to wish all of you a good Hogmanay. And to everyone, whether you’re in Scotland or further afield, let me wish all of you, a very happy, healthy and peaceful new year.”

The message was released as Scotland reported another daily record for Covid, with 16,857 cases as Omicron surges.

The pandemic, recovery and cooperation were the themes of other senior politicians.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said he was “optimistic for 2022” despite a “challenging” year, and said people “shouldn’t forget that we are in a much better place than we were 12 months ago”, giving credit to a UK-wide response.

He said: “This time last year, the vaccination programme was in its infancy and results uncertain. Now the UK is to the fore in the global struggle against the virus, with the vast majority of us safer thanks to vaccines and, after the Herculean efforts of the NHS over the past couple of weeks, booster jabs too.”

He paid tribute to scientists, NHS staff and “British military personnel who toiled tirelessly amid the greatest national effort of peacetime” to deliver the vaccines.

Mr Jack also thanked the public for their efforts, praising people for “looking out for your neighbours, and putting up with huge restrictions on your lives” as well as “rolling up your sleeves for injections that might well have saved your life and those of others around you”.

Recovering from the pandemic is the UK’s priority, he added, as he recalled the “unprecedented” support given to businesses and individuals.

“Though no one can be precise about when the misery of Covid will pass, I am sure that – together as one United Kingdom – better times are ahead for all.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton thanked vaccinators for helping to make progress against the virus, and stressed the fight had to be a global.

He said: “For as long as big parts of the world remain unvaccinated then the emergence of new variants will keep happening. It’s wrong that rich countries should stockpile vaccine supplies we will never use while poorer countries go without. That needs to change.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “We have come so far in this fight – we must keep going, and we will get through this. I know this year has been tough for many, but I hope that this new year brings you, your family and friends peace, love, health and happiness.

“So this Hogmanay, I don’t just want to wish for a Happy New Year – I want us all to work together and build it.”

UK Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer promised he would set out a plan next year to “build a new Britain” that “works for everyone, in every party of the country and not just for those at the top”.

He said that meant “a truly dynamic economy ensuring that no city, no town, no village is left behind, as we buy, make and sell more in Britain. We will bring forward plans to show how this can work for every nation and region across our United Kingdom.”

UK LibDem leader Sir Ed Davey said he hoped 2022 was the year we “beat Covid”.

He said: “Through all the ups and downs, the thing that has shone through the most for me is the remarkable courage, resilience and compassion of the British people.

“Everywhere I go, everyone I meet – you make me proud to be British, and optimistic for our future.”

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