Humza Yousaf has paid tribute to volunteers and frontline workers in his first Christmas message as Scotland’s First Minister.
The First Minister acknowledged the “challenging year” many have faced with the cost-of-living crisis as well as experiencing loneliness, illness or grief.
“Christmas is a special time of year where people gather with their loved ones,” he said.
“However, I know for many people – many families in Scotland – it has been a challenging year. And as we come together over the festive period, the cost of living will be on many people’s minds.
“There are also many people for whom this time of year is particularly difficult. The colleagues and neighbours experiencing loneliness, illness or grief are all around us. People suffering from homelessness, addiction or abuse.
“So I am particularly grateful to those of you who are looking out for others – you are the warm volunteers at foodbanks and shelters.
“You’re the gentle voices, staffing helplines, you’re the health and emergency workers keeping us safe.”
He also thanked the armed forces, drivers, shop workers and engineers who continue working over the festive period.
But on a more sombre note, he addressed the “unimaginable horrors” taking place in the Middle East as the conflict continues between Israel and Gaza.
“My prayer this Christmas is for peace and an immediate ceasefire in Gaza,” he said.
He concluded: “So to all those in Scotland who are celebrating Christmas and to our Christian community, in particular, a very Merry Christmas to you all.”
Meanwhile, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said he looked forward to a “heart-warming” Christmas with his wife Krystle and their two sons, Alastair and James.
But he said: “But while many of us are lucky enough to spend the festive season with our family and friends, for others, Christmas time can be challenging and lonely.
“To all of those who may be finding the holiday period particularly difficult here at home – and to all of those caught up in the tragic wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, or in conflicts across the globe – I send my thoughts and prayers.”
He also paid tribute to the “incredible” emergency staff who “sacrifice” their Christmas to protect Scots.
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also paid tribute to volunteers and essential workers.
He said: “This time of year brings out the best in people. It is a chance to reflect on the year that’s come before and look ahead to the future.
“And I hope that we can look ahead to next year with hope and with optimism for a better future.
“So to everyone who brings joy and laughter to our Christmases, thank you.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “While politics takes a short break, I know that many in our hospitals, care homes, homeless services and more will be working today.
“I want you to know that my party appreciates your work and we will do our best to fight your corner over the year ahead.”
He added: “This festive season, I will be praying for everyone to find hope in the love and support of their friends, family and community.”
Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater praised the “spirit of hope” in the country despite the “difficult backdrop” with wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
She added: “I want to say a big thank you to everyone who is working to keep us safe. Every one of those doctors, nurses, fire-fighters, police officers and other vital service providers should be in our thoughts and given our gratitude.”
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