The next item of business is nominations for First Minister. I have received two valid nominations for the selection of the Parliament’s nominee as First Minister. The nominations, in alphabetical order, are Ruth Davidson and Nicola Sturgeon.
I will ask each nominee to speak in support of their candidacy for up to five minutes. After the nominees have spoken, members will be asked to cast their vote for their preferred candidate. A separate vote will be called for each candidate, and members may vote only once. A note explaining the procedures to be followed this afternoon has been placed on each member’s desk.
Once the voting has been completed, any member who has not yet voted will be invited to cast a vote to abstain. There will be a short break of a few minutes while the result is verified and I will then announce the result of the voting. A candidate will be elected if a simple majority is obtained. No account will be taken of any votes to abstain in establishing whether a simple majority has been achieved.
We move on to the selection process. I call Ruth Davidson.
I stand today as others have done before me—Alex Salmond, Robin Harper, John Swinney, Dennis Canavan and half a dozen others besides—knowing that I do not lead the largest party in the Parliament and realistic about my prospects of becoming First Minister, at least for now.
However, I stand for an important reason. But one issue has dominated the political landscape for the entirety of this session of Parliament, and the Deputy First Minister, who is seeking to ascend one rung, finds herself on the opposite side of the issue from the majority of people in this country. So today, I offer an alternative, as someone who wants Scotland to prosper as part of our United Kingdom, not outside it, and as a member of this Parliament who wants it to work better, using the powers that it has to improve public life in Scotland, and the powers that are coming to limit the financial burden on families across our country.
I want both Scotland’s Governments to work together for the betterment of all our people. I do not want false grievance to be held up in order to pit one against the other—Holyrood against Westminster. My stated aim is to develop devolution, not to end it—to use this devolved Parliament to serve the people and empower them, and to loosen the constraints of the state, pushing power into communities and increasing freedom and choice.
I want parents to be free to raise their children without a state-appointed guardian being imposed on them. I want tenants to be free to buy their council house and pass that asset on to their children. There should be greater economic freedom, with more of the money that is earned staying in the pockets of those who earned it. There should be freedom for football fans to be subject to the same laws as everybody else. There should be freedom for parents to pick a school for their child and to have different types of schools from which to choose; and freedom to break the council monopoly that says that there is only one way to teach and one way to learn—there is not, and Scotland can learn from countries where that freedom of choice has driven up standards for future generations.
Reform of our public services to make them more effective and responsive to people’s needs is long overdue in Scotland. It is a debate that has been ducked for 15 years, but it is a conversation that we need to start having right now; failing to do so is hitting those who rely on such services hardest, and it is a dereliction of our duty as parliamentarians.
Freedom, yes, but there are responsibilities, too, and choices to be made. The way in which the single police force is being rolled out urgently needs to be reviewed. Simply stamping the rest of the country with the Strathclyde mould and expecting it to fit is not working. Local communities need to feel that they have got their community police force back.
The messy web of justice policy needs to be untangled. Asking members to vote down corroboration without knowing what its replacement would be was an act of either desperation or hubris—I cannot work out which. We need to start from first principles: how do we better secure justice for our victims and fairness for the accused? We need a wholesale review of the law of evidence.
Our national health service must stop having sticking-plaster fixes. I have more cause than most in this chamber to thank our NHS, which saved not only my life but my legs. I have always been happy to pay a contribution towards my prescriptions, as were the vast majority of people who were asked to do so. Extending free prescriptions to those who could afford to pay takes £60 million out of the NHS budget each year. Free stuff is nice. Free stuff is easy. However, I think that £60 million would be better spent funding 1,000 extra nurses and midwives for our hospitals.
I stand here today knowing that I will likely lose, but I stand to offer a different vision of Scotland: a Scotland where we value our vocational education as highly as our academic education; a Scotland where we do not decimate our college places for the shibboleth of no university contribution; a Scotland that recognises that children learn differently and should have the opportunity to be taught differently, with choice driving up standards; a Scotland where local police, local services and local colleges answer to the communities that they serve, rather than to a central Government hell-bent on pulling all power to Holyrood; a Scotland that acknowledges that there is no such thing as Government money, only the money that Governments take from the working men and women of this country—and we resolve to ensure that they keep more of it; and a Scotland where Government is there to help, not to hector.
I stand to offer that vision of Scotland and I promise that, whether elected to the office of First Minister or—more likely—not, I will work with anyone who will help achieve it.
Thank you, Presiding Officer. I will keep my opening remarks relatively brief.
First, I thank Ruth Davidson for her candidacy today. I suspect that I am correct in saying that there is not much that she and I agree on, but I think that we probably will agree today that having two women contest the post of First Minister is a great advert for our modern country. [Applause.]
Only a matter of weeks ago, I would not have imagined that I would be seeking nomination today as the First Minister of Scotland. To be doing so is a great honour and an immense responsibility. The boots that I seek to fill are big ones, but I will do my best to wear them in my own way. In seeking to become not just the First Minister but the first woman First Minister of our country, I am very aware of the additional responsibility that I will carry if elected: the responsibility to help every woman and girl in our country fulfil their own potential.
It is fair to say that recent political events have surprised all of us. In the run-up to the referendum—and, indeed, since—democracy in Scotland has flourished as never before. We hear all too often that people have disconnected from politics, but the 85 per cent turnout that we saw in September shows that here in Scotland the reverse is true. People are more engaged than ever in our political process and they have high expectations that we in this Parliament will meet their needs and aspirations. Put bluntly, their hopes are in our hands; it is our responsibility as a Parliament and as a Government to ensure that we meet them. That presents us with challenges, but also with tremendous opportunities. There is no better service that we can give Scotland than to improve the prospects of her people.
If Parliament elects me to be First Minister, I will work with each and every member to make Scotland a better, fairer and more socially just place for all. Although we may differ on the best way of achieving that goal—those of us who believe in independence and those of us who do not—I know that that is a commitment that all members will share and do their very best to uphold.
We live in a new era of Scottish democracy. Those whom we represent expect us to give our very best, and we—all of us—must ensure that we do not disappoint them. They expect to see us debate vigorously, but they do not want us to divide rancorously. So let us work together to create a future for Scotland that is worthy of their dreams and their trust.
I ask for the support of Parliament for my candidacy to be First Minister of and for all of Scotland—a First Minister who will always have big ambitions for this country and who, day in and day out, will apply herself to the job of protecting our public services, supporting our businesses and tackling inequality.
I am ready and willing to take on those responsibilities. There is a big job to be done. With Parliament’s approval, I look forward now to getting on and doing it.
Thank you. We move to voting. Members should ensure that their card is inserted correctly in their console, which will help the process. I remind members that they must vote once only and must use their yes button. If any members record a vote more than once or record a vote other than a yes vote, their votes will be treated as spoiled. Once the votes for both candidates have been completed, members who have not voted for a candidate will be given an opportunity to vote to abstain by pressing their yes button. I will announce the results once all the votes have been cast and verified.
The first vote is for Ruth Davidson. Members who wish to cast their vote for her should vote yes now.
Voting time has ended.
The next vote is for Nicola Sturgeon. Members who wish to cast their vote for her should vote yes now.
The next vote is for any members who have not yet voted and who wish to record an abstention. Members who wish to abstain should press their yes button now.
That concludes this round of voting. There will be a break of approximately five minutes while the votes are verified.
I will explain to members what the delay was all about: we had to verify each vote to make sure that no one had voted twice. I am quite sure that, by the time we come to select a future First Minister, we will be able to do it a lot more quickly.
In the vote on the selection of the Parliament’s nominee for First Minister, the total number of votes cast was 120. The number of votes cast for each candidate was: Ruth Davidson 15, Nicola Sturgeon 66, Abstentions 39. There were no spoiled votes.
As the result is valid, and as Nicola Sturgeon has received more votes than the total number of votes for the other candidate, I declare that Nicola Sturgeon is selected as the Parliament’s nominee for appointment as First Minister. [Applause.] As required by the Scotland Act 1998, I shall now recommend to Her Majesty that she appoint Nicola Sturgeon as the First Minister.
First Minister, on behalf of the Parliament, I offer you my sincere good wishes as you take on your new role. I look forward to working with you.
I offer my congratulations to Nicola Sturgeon on her election as First Minister. In many ways, I consider this to be a double celebration, as she is the first woman to be appointed to that office and the first woman to lead the Scottish National Party.
We became members of the Scottish Parliament on the same day and we have for a number of years had the same policy brief, so we have exchanged views on countless occasions across the chamber. Presiding Officer, although it will not surprise you to know that Nicola Sturgeon and I have not always agreed, I have certainly respected her contribution. Some of those exchanges have been robust—I am sure that they will continue to be robust—and others have been more consensual. I trust that she will accept my congratulations in the spirit in which they are offered.
I hope that the fact that three out of five party responses today are being delivered by women is recognition of how far we have travelled in recent years and how the Parliament differs from other places.
Nicola Sturgeon’s place in Scottish political history is assured, given that she is the first woman to hold her post. There is no doubting that this is a symbolic moment, but what she does in post matters far more. I sincerely hope that she will use her position to promote women’s role in public life by making positive steps towards gender balance.
There is no reason why a 50:50 gender balance cannot become a reality in government, in the Parliament and across the public sector. Nicola Sturgeon has the power to achieve that, and I will be happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with her if she chooses to do so.
Next week, we will hear from the First Minister what her programme for government will contain and who she will choose to serve in her Cabinet. I will have more to say about that on another day. She tells us that the policies at the heart of her Administration will be social justice and equality. I welcome that. I say to her genuinely that, if that is the case, will she consider replacing the 4,000 teaching posts and will she reinstate the 140,000 college places that have been cut? Will she do something to increase the number of students from the poorest backgrounds taking up university places? I am sure that she agrees that education provides the opportunity to secure a better future and deliver social justice.
In the past few weeks, many—including me—have commented on the SNP Administration’s failings since it came to power in 2007 and particularly in the past three years when it has had a majority in the Parliament. I welcome the reports of Nicola Sturgeon’s Saturday conference speech and, in particular, her pledge to tackle poverty and inequality. However, I gently remind her that the SNP has been responsible for many of the relevant policies over the past seven years. Even though it was her Government that cut £1 billion from the anti-poverty budget, I am always willing to work with her in the cause of social justice.
Although I welcome that new priority, I had hoped that the SNP would have addressed the problems facing the people of Scotland before now. If she brings forward credible policies for dealing with those problems, she will get the support of Labour members, and we stand ready to help with that task.
People know that what counts is action, not words. It is genuinely disappointing that it appears that action is on hold until her party manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood elections, although I hope that we can work together now to do something before then. That apparently includes the pledge to increase the number of hours of free childcare—a pledge that we warmly welcome. Having been told during the referendum campaign that that could be done only if Scotland achieved independence, we now find that it can be done anyway—but I hope that it can be done now and not at some later date. Again, we stand ready to help.
One area in which the new First Minister can provide us with some clarity is the living wage. She announced to her party conference that cleaning staff employed by Mitie and subcontracted to the Scottish Government will be paid the living wage by the end of the year. That is a positive development. However, although I welcome that, I think that we can do much better than a piecemeal, company-by-company approach.
Three weeks ago, the SNP had the opportunity to ensure that every company that wishes to secure a public sector contract pays the living wage. The SNP rejected that proposal, although the First Minister signed a living wage pledge back in March. For the 400,000 people who are paid less than the living wage, I invite the SNP and the First Minister to support Labour’s campaign to make payment of the living wage the expectation, not the exception, in all public sector contracts.
Although it was a long apprenticeship for Nicola Sturgeon, she tells us that she was party to all decisions while she worked with Alex Salmond. I will watch with interest to see whether we get more of the same or whether she strikes a different tone, adopts a different style and has different content. I genuinely congratulate her on her appointment and very much look forward to First Minister’s question time tomorrow.
After a hard-fought contest for the position of First Minister, in the end my opponent just shaded it. I promise that I will not demand a recount.
Today, the Parliament has elected Nicola Sturgeon as the First Minister of Scotland. On behalf of myself and my party, I offer her our warmest congratulations. When she knocked on her first door in her home constituency of Cunninghame South during the 1987 general election, there was no Scottish Parliament, no devolved Government and no post of First Minister. She could have had no idea, when she chapped that door, that she was setting out on a path that would lead more than a quarter of a century later to that high office and Bute house.
Nicola Sturgeon’s completion of that journey is a great personal achievement, and it is an accomplishment to secure office as Scotland’s first woman First Minister. As women around the world seek equality and equity where there currently is none, I am personally delighted that they will look to Scotland and see another woman having fought her way, on merit, to the top—women are not just leading the Government but chairing the Parliament.
Of course, the Conservatives led the way in giving the country its first female leader, who was Prime Minister between 1979 and 1990. I know that Nicola Sturgeon has always seen that Prime Minister as a personal role model who has inspired her in everything that she has done. I look forward to seeing whether the First Minister can find within her the iron resolve that marks out all true leaders, whether they are male or female.
With an apprenticeship of 10 years as deputy party leader and seven as the Deputy First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon is eminently qualified. If I may offer a personal opinion, she is in many ways a more skilful politician than her immediate predecessor—she has been deployed more than once as a velvet glove to a clunking fist.
There are a number of positives to welcome today, and welcome them I do. However, Scotland needs not just a new First Minister but a change of direction. Above all, after two years that have been consumed by the single issue of Scotland’s constitutional future, it is time to get back to the practical, day-to-day issues that concern Scottish families the most—issues such as jobs, opportunity, taxes and the efficient delivery of public services. Such issues have been an accompaniment for most of the parliamentary session, and we must move them back to where they belong: front and centre in all our priorities.
The Scottish Conservatives are clear about the reforms that are needed to make Scotland better. We need greater choice and diversity in our education system, to drive up standards. We need to lower the tax burden on ordinary Scots. We need policies to promote personal responsibility and we need to provide a ladder of aspiration for disadvantaged families.
Those are the Scottish Conservatives’ priorities; the new First Minister will have her own. It is inevitable that many things will divide us, and Conservative members will hold the First Minister and her Government to account for their actions and policies. It is healthy and necessary for Scotland’s democracy that we do so.
We will not oppose for the sake of opposition. We will make common cause with the new First Minister where agreement can be found, to make Scotland better. I believe that both our Governments in this country—in Holyrood and at Westminster—are working to better the nation. People at home demand no less.
We have been through a period in our history when, perhaps understandably, the divisions between the two sides in the referendum debate have been inflamed and sometimes distorted. Too often, not just policies and views but motives and character have been questioned. I hope that the election of a new First Minister of Scotland will act as a brake on that dismal political dead end. I hope that the politics of division will pass and that the politics of debate and discourse, and pragmatism and respect, will win out.
We can still disagree. I know the new First Minister, and we both know that the rocks will melt in the sun before we stop disagreeing. However, I hope that we can do that with mutual respect and mutual acknowledgement that all of us—Conservative, Liberal, Labour and SNP—seek to make Scotland a better place.
In that spirit, I take the opportunity to congratulate Nicola Sturgeon on her appointment. I wish her well in the task that awaits.
This is a wonderful day for equality. As First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has been elevated to a special and select group of powerful women in the world. She joins the illustrious company of Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt, of Norway and Denmark respectively—countries from which she draws inspiration. I discourage her from consulting Tatiana Turanskaya, who is the Prime Minister of the self-declared independent republic of Transnistria. However, she might wish to look for advice from Iveta Radicová of Slovakia, who has been credited with restoring the relationship with a large neighbour after her predecessor put it under significant strain. Nicola Sturgeon might be especially interested in what Iveta Radicová has to say, given that Radicová was deposed by her predecessor only two years later.
At times, Nicola Sturgeon and I might exchange cross words in the chamber, but let me begin with praise. I hope that she is as proud today as her parents looked on Saturday. This is an outstanding personal achievement.
I want to set out what my party and I will do in response to a Sturgeon Government. Where we disagree, we will say so, and sometimes robustly. That is our job. Where we agree, we will also say so. That is our job, too.
If the Parliament will allow me, I will make two points of difference. Our new First Minister wants to represent all Scotland. We commend that. She wants to represent not just the people who supported her in the referendum, but the whole country. However, she must realise that when she uses her position to return immediately to campaigning for a win in another referendum, she is in danger of diminishing the democratic expression of more than 2 million no voters. I am not expecting Nicola Sturgeon to change her views on Scotland’s constitutional future—I would never deny her that right. However, her Government has had more than three and a half years to make the case for independence. In the remaining 18 months, would not it be respectful to invest all her power and energy in running the country?
Nicola Sturgeon will also know that we strongly disagree with the Government’s approach to justice—on police centralisation, on the abolition of corroboration, on the massive expansion in stop and search and on the carrying of guns by officers. I hope that she takes the opportunity in the pending reshuffle to find a new and more liberal Cabinet Secretary for Justice.
Just as we will speak out when we disagree, I can tell Nicola Sturgeon that we will not hunt for reasons to oppose when it is sensible to support. She knows that we have worked constructively with her Government on every single budget. When we secured more funds for our colleges, for nursery education, for thousands of two-year-olds, for housing, for free school meals and more, we voted for those budgets.
I am searching for common ground on powers for this Parliament, too. We advocated the inclusion of Nicola Sturgeon’s party on the Smith commission, and we look forward to reaching an agreement that will make a big difference for Scotland.
The responsibility that Nicola Sturgeon now takes is great. At times, it will be a personal burden. We will scrutinise her, but we will always strive to judge her fairly.
I am sure that I am not alone in the chamber in feeling a certain degree of envy today: to be in Nicola Sturgeon’s shoes, for the opportunity that the office of First Minister presents to change Scotland, and to create a stronger economy and a fairer society so that everyone can get a chance to get on. However, this is her moment, and I wish her well.
I add my warm congratulations to Nicola Sturgeon on her selection by Parliament. I am sure that a comparison with the first woman Prime Minister will be beneath Her Majesty when the moment comes for her to approve the appointment on our behalf.
I wish Nicola Sturgeon very well in the job that she is about to undertake. We had the opportunity of working together on a number of occasions during the referendum campaign. Whether we agreed or disagreed on any particular point of policy or strategy, that experience confirmed what I already believed to be true: that Nicola Sturgeon is a highly capable, professional and very impressive figure on the political landscape of Scotland.
Over the past few days, Nicola Sturgeon has set out a strong social justice emphasis in her hopes and aspirations for her time in office. There are many opportunities to give effect to that aspiration, including the adoption of a fairer approach to local taxes, which would not only ensure that people such as us, who can afford to contribute more do so, but mean investing in the services on which people depend. That could even end early the real-terms pay cuts that are still taking place in the public sector.
Over the next few months, we will find out whether this Parliament will have the ability to exercise additional powers, to pull different economic levers, to close the gap between rich and poor in our society and to improve provision for people in it. I hope that we will see a resolute and creative approach to using all the powers that are at the disposal of the Parliament—existing and new—to ensure that those objectives are achieved.
Let me set out two particular areas in which I hope to see from the new Scottish Government a stronger line than we have seen in the past. First, the transatlantic trade and investment partnership is a long and boring name for a dramatic corporate power grab that is currently being negotiated between Europe and the United States. I know that the Scottish Government does not have a formal role in that negotiation, but it does have a voice. In the past, the Scottish Government has described that trade deal as “good news” for Scotland, and has highlighted the potential for economic benefits.
Right now, however, that trade deal is beginning to fall apart. The French Government has indicated that it will not support the investor-state dispute settlement procedures that TTIP contains and which would allow the potential for corporations to sue Governments for having the nerve to protect social and environmental standards. The French Minister of State for Foreign Trade, the Promotion of Tourism and French Nationals Abroad said:
“We have to preserve the right of the state to set and apply its own standards ... and to allow the people of France, and the world, to assert their values.”
Scotland might not have a seat at the negotiating table, but I hope that Nicola Sturgeon will use the office of First Minister and the voice of the Scottish Government. If we do so and we galvanise public opposition to that corporate power grab, the killer blow can be dealt to it.
I turn to the second area in which I hope to see a stronger line. I hope that the Scottish Government will clarify its position on unconventional gas extraction. Concern has been expressed on the issue, including by Nicola Sturgeon’s own back benchers and by people in communities right across Scotland, but we have heard it confirmed only recently that unconventional gas developments can take place in Scotland—that they will be assessed “on their merits”.
It is clear that such developments cannot take place without planning consent, so even if we do not get additional powers to control licensing, we already have the ability to say no to the industry. Ministers will soon have to make decisions on unconventional gas developments in Scotland, and many of us will feel entitled to treat the first such decision as a test case. We do not want mere caution in this area: we want Scotland’s Government to say no, unambiguously, to what is a destructive and unnecessary new wave of fossil fuel extraction in Scotland.
I once again offer my sincere congratulations and goodwill, and my hope that the Scottish Government under Nicola Sturgeon’s stewardship will make the right decisions in all those areas.
Presiding Officer, I thank you very much indeed for your kind words earlier. I thank the party leaders for their kind words too—long may they continue. Last, but most important, I thank my fellow members of Parliament for giving me the honour and privilege of being their nominee as the next First Minister of Scotland.
My pledge today to every citizen of our country is simple but heartfelt. I will be First Minister for all of Scotland: regardless of your politics or your point of view, my job is to serve you and I promise that I will do so to the very best of my ability.
This is a special and very proud moment for me, a working-class girl from Ayrshire given the job of heading up the Government of Scotland. It is also a big moment for my family, and I am delighted that they have joined me here today. I am particularly delighted—relieved, even—to note that, so far at any rate, my niece and nephews appear to be on their best behaviour.
I am so grateful to all my family here today, and in particular to my mum, my dad, my sister and my husband for the unwavering support that they have always given me in everything that I have chosen to do. Now that I am First Minister, I suspect that I will need that support more than ever, and I am very lucky in knowing that it will always be there.
Like you, Presiding Officer, I have been a member of this Parliament since its re-establishment in 1999. That means that I have had the opportunity at close quarters to watch and learn from all my predecessors as First Minister. Each of them, in their own unique ways, has been a passionate and diligent advocate for Scotland. I have the greatest respect for all of them—for the late Donald Dewar and for Henry McLeish, Jack McConnell and Alex Salmond—and I am genuinely humbled that my name will now be added to that distinguished list.
That our Parliament and Government have, in just 15 short years, come to be so firmly established and—dare I say it?—respected in our national life is testament to the quality of their stewardship and their leadership.
However, I am sure that members will understand why I want to pay particular tribute to Alex Salmond today. Without the guidance and support that Alex has given me over more than 20 years, it is unlikely that I would be standing here. I owe him a personal debt of gratitude, and it is important to me to put my thanks to him on the public record today.
Alex Salmond’s place in history as one of Scotland’s greatest leaders is secure, and rightly so. However, I have no doubt that he has a big contribution yet to make to politics in Scotland. I know that I will continue to seek his wise counsel, and—who knows?—from time to time he might seek mine too.
To become First Minister is special, and it is a big responsibility. To make history as the first woman First Minister is even more so. I am reminded of a quote that I once read from Florence Horsbrugh, who—as Ruth Davidson will know—was a Conservative member of Parliament for Dundee. In 1936, she became the first woman to reply to what was then the King’s speech in the House of Commons. She said:
“If in these new and novel surroundings I acquit myself but poorly, when I sit down I shall at least have two thoughts for my consolation—it has never been done better by a woman before, and, whatever else may be said about me, in the future from henceforward I am historic.”
I can sympathise with the sentiment, though I hope not to need any such consolation.
Indeed, I much prefer this quote from the same speech:
“I ... think of this occasion as the opening of a gate into a new field of opportunity”.—[Official Report, House of Commons, 3 November 1936; Vol 317, c 14.]
I hope that my election as First Minister does indeed help to open the gate to greater opportunity for all women. I hope that it sends a strong, positive message to girls and young women—indeed, to all women across our land. There should be no limit to your ambition or what you can achieve. If you are good enough and you work hard enough, the sky is the limit and no glass ceiling should ever stop you from achieving your dreams.
Presiding Officer, I hope that that is the message of my election, as indeed it was of yours, but it is what I do as First Minister that will matter more—much more—than the example that I have set simply by holding the office. Leading by example on equal representation and encouraging others to follow, addressing low pay and improving childcare—those are the obligations that I now carry and I am determined to discharge them on behalf of women across our country.
My niece, who is in the public gallery today with her brother and cousins, is eight years old. She does not yet know about the gender pay gap, underrepresentation or the barriers such as high childcare costs that make it so hard for so many women to work and pursue careers. My fervent hope is that she never will and that, by the time she is a young a woman, she will have no need to know about any of those issues, because they will have been consigned to history. If, during my tenure as First Minister, I can play a part in making that so for my niece and for every other little girl in this country, I will be very happy indeed.
I am taking on the responsibilities of First Minister at an exciting time in our nation’s history. All of us, regardless of party, have been inspired and challenged by the flourishing of democracy that we have witnessed during and since the referendum. Democratic politics in Scotland has never been more alive and the expectations that people have of their politicians and their Parliament have never been higher. There is a burning desire across our country to build a more prosperous, fairer and better Scotland.
People did not just vote yes for a better country. I know that those who voted no want a better country, too. I intend to lead a Government that delivers on those aspirations. My role as First Minister will be to help build a Scotland that all those who live and work here can be proud of—a nation both socially democratic and socially just; a Scotland confident in itself, proud of its successes and honest about its weaknesses; a Scotland of good government and civic empowerment; a Scotland vigorous and determined in its resolution to address poverty, support business, promote growth and tackle inequality. Those are the points against which my Government will set its compass. I earnestly believe that, in doing so, we will reflect the wishes, hopes and desires—the dreams, even—of the Scottish people.
Of course we will have our differences across parties in the chamber as to the best way forward. We must never shy away from robust debate, but we should strive always to be constructive and respectful. I want all members to know that where we are on common ground—and I want to find as much of that as I can—they will find in me a willing and listening ally.
It will surprise nobody to hear that I will always argue the case for more powers—indeed, for the full powers of independence for this Parliament. I believe that the more we are able to do as a Parliament, the better we can serve the people who elect us. However, I will also—and always—do my utmost to govern well with the powers that we have now. My daily tasks will be to protect and improve our NHS, support our businesses at home and abroad, ensure that all children get the chance to fulfil their potential, and keep our communities safe from crime.
I intend to lead a Government with purpose, a Government that is bold, imaginative and adventurous. I know that there will be tough decisions to be made and I might not always get them right. It is not the case that all manner of things shall be well. I will face challenges, but I will strive to meet them positively and with fortitude. I know that I will be inspired and sustained each and every day by the potential of this country and of the people who live here.
“there’s ane end of ane auld sang”.
The song lay lost for 292 years until we reconvened the Parliament in 1999. This First Minister intends to make sure that we adorn that old song with new verses that tell of a modern and confident Scotland that is fit for purpose and fit for all of her people. Together, let us now get on with writing that story. [Applause.]