Nicola Sturgeon

A very Happy New Year to all readers of this column.

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I hope 2013 brings you health and happiness. For all that New Year is a time of celebration, there probably aren't too many people who would name January as their favourite month of the year.

It is, after all, the month that we take down the Christmas decorations and have to think about paying the bills and losing the extra pounds gained as a result of all the turkey, chocolates and alcohol consumed over the festive period.

And, this being Scotland, the weather is almost always cold, wet and windy.

But, for all that, January is also a time of fresh starts and renewal. It is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf and do things differently.

So, like many of you, I have made my fair share of new year resolutions.

Whether I will be able to stick to them is another matter - but the good intentions are definitely there.

At the top of my list is the old favourite: Do more exercise and get fit.

I promise myself to do this every year - and in some years I have even succeeded, for a while.

But the older I get, the more conscious I am of the need to take exercise seriously.

So if, over the next few weeks, you see me out cycling or pounding the pavements, you'll know what's going on.

Another of my personal resolutions is to make more time for family and friends.

When I think of how quickly the years fly by, I realise just how important it is to value those close to us.

And yet I am really bad at making the effort to keep in touch. There is always something more important to be done at work that allows me to convince myself that I just don't have the time.

Well, this year it's going to be different. So, if you are one of my long lost pals, beware - I'm coming to see you.

Last, but by no means least, I have made one very important work-related resolution - and that is to do everything I can to ensure that the debate about Scotland's future is a positive one.

Next year, the referendum will give us the chance to decide if Scotland should regain her independence. In other words, if we should give our own Parliament the power to make decisions on the economy and welfare, just as it already does on health and education, and work with the rest of the UK in a spirit of equality and friendship.

It is a big decision and the Scottish people deserve a debate that will allow them to make it in an informed way.

So, I think it's time for both sides of the debate to stop the name-calling and silly scaremongering and, instead, focus on what kind of country we want to be and how best we can get there.

If that's the debate we have over this and next year then –whatever the outcome – it will be one of which we can all be proud. Happy New Year.


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