Scotland politics

Scottish party leaders deliver new year messages

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Media captionAlex Salmond's message, released by the Scottish government, urges voters to "take responsibility" for Scotland's future

Alex Salmond has used his new year message to urge Scots to take "the opportunity of a lifetime" by voting for independence in 2014.

The first minister said the eyes of the world would be on Scotland, in what would be a "truly amazing year".

Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said no matter the referendum result, people should "come together".

The leaders of the Scottish Tories and Scottish Lib Dems said they believed Scots would vote against independence.

The party leaders all acknowledged the sense of anticipation generated by the many big events taking place in the country in 2014.

In addition to the independence referendum, the coming year will also see the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup being staged in Scotland

On 18 September 2014, voters will be asked the yes/no question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"

In a video message, Mr Salmond said he hoped the remaining nine months of the independence debate would be "constructive".

He added: "Let's also ensure that we take this chance to think about the sort of country we want Scotland to become.

"Let's not wake up on the morning of 19 September next year and think to ourselves what might have been.

"Let's wake up on that morning filled with hope and expectation - ready to build a just and prosperous nation."

'Shape the debate'

Referring to the referendum debate, Ms Lamont said people could learn lessons from athletes competing in the Commonwealth Games.

"We all have a duty to show the best of Scotland and shape the debate to ensure it is inspiring for all of those people who are yet to engage or been switched off by what has happened up until now," she said.

"If we are going to have the kind of debate that this country deserves, then we all need to do what will be asked of those runners, cyclists and swimmers heading for Glasgow this summer - up our game and rise to the occasion.

"And there is another important lesson we can learn from these amazing men and women - to be a good sport."

The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, said 2014 would "reaffirm Scotland's place in the United Kingdom".

"I am hopeful for 2014," he said. "I've been checking the tea leaves and it's going to be a good year.

"I am confident the economy will continue to grow and that we'll create more jobs, cut taxes further and increase pensions higher.

"I am also confident we'll reaffirm Scotland's place in the United Kingdom family of nations so we can share risk and reward for generations to come.

"We won't undermine the progress by splitting Scotland from the UK."

Ruth Davidson, leader of of the Scottish Conservatives, said Scotland was about to hold "the biggest conversation in our history" and 2014 would be the year when people in Scotland "voted with their hearts and their heads" to reject independence.

She added: "Already, thousands of people are involved in the two campaigns - some are long standing members of political parties for whom door-knocking is second nature, but others have been spurred into activism for the very first time.

"This is healthy and good as we need as many voices to be heard as possible.

"I will certainly be working closely with others to advance the reasons for staying together."

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