First Minister

– in the Scottish Parliament on 28 March 2023.

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Photo of Alison Johnstone Alison Johnstone Green

The next item of business is the selection of the Parliament’s nominee as First Minister. A note explaining the procedures that are to be followed this afternoon has been made available to members.

I have received four valid nominations for selection of the Parliament’s nominee for First Minister. I will now announce the nominations in alphabetical order. They are Alex Cole-Hamilton, Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar and Humza Yousaf. 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 can vote only once. Once all 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 suspension while the result is verified and I will then announce the results of voting.

A candidate will be elected if an overall majority is obtained. If no majority is obtained, the candidate or candidates with the smallest number of votes will be eliminated. I ask members to note that, if we have a vote between only two candidates, all that is required is a simple majority for one of the candidates to be elected. Members might wish to record an abstention; no account of those votes will be taken in establishing whether a simple majority has been achieved. We will then proceed to a further round of voting.

Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

I rise to speak to my candidacy for the office of First Minister of Scotland. I am a candidate in this contest because this is a democracy. Democracies are about the presentation of differing visions of how things could be and about bringing to the fore the priorities of the constituents who sent us all here to this place.

Here and now, we are as far as it is possible to be from a Scottish parliamentary election. We are midstream and have a governing party that is in disarray, adrift and out of ideas. It brings to mind the words of Robert Browning, who, nearly two centuries ago, wrote:

“Glad was I when I reached the other bank.

Now for a better country.”

The members in the chamber will reject my candidacy today. I understand that, but ours is a vision for that better country. You will not find a prospectus that is more positive and more ambitious from anyone else, because Liberal Democrats believe in a Scotland that is industrious, innovative and internationalist of outlook.

I want us to imagine things again, to make things again and to harness the collective potential of our people and our natural resources—a Scotland that delivers for those working in our schools, hospitals and fields. They are tired of the ministerial disinterest that has characterised much of the past 16 years and of a Government that is fixated on the break-up of the United Kingdom.

We have to put the people first. Liberal Democrats understand what matters to them because we asked them, door by door and street by street, in the villages and towns of Scotland. They want to know when they will get that hip replacement. They want to know why their kid has been left behind in school or is left waiting for mental health treatment. They want to know why they have to live in a cold home. They are looking to this chamber for the answer and that is why I am in politics. It is what keeps me awake at night.

Liberal Democrats would cut waiting times and abandon the SNP paradigm of social care. We would deliver an emergency insulation programme that would make every home warm, while slashing our carbon emissions. We would strive to make our classrooms into inviting places to work and to learn by always paying our teachers what they are worth, tackling violence in our schools and scrapping national testing. Liberal Democrats are, by nature, solutions focused. We are crackling with policy ideas and, my goodness, do we not need some of those right now?

Our world is changing. Scotland faces big, international questions. Our world is on fire in the climate emergency. We are witness to the mass displacement of people fleeing unimaginable atrocities, and we will come to look back on this time with an understanding that we were already living in the early days of a new cold war. Those challenges demand a new politics of hope and of democratic reform, and of common endeavour across nations that share our values and our corner of this world. I stand today on that ticket.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the party of co-operation across these islands. We are the party of local power through federalism and, yes, we are the true party of Europe. Members should make no mistake: there is more water behind this Government than lies ahead of it. Change is coming and the Liberal Democrats will be a part of what is next. If we want it to, that change could start with this vote this afternoon. We do not have to settle for continuity, for mediocrity, or for more of the divisive and dreary same. That other bank could be in sight, so we just have to reach for it now, for a better country.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

In 2021, I put myself forward as my party’s candidate for First Minister because I believed that Scotland needed a real alternative that was focused on the big challenges that our country was facing. Now, at the end of the Sturgeon era and after a fractious SNP leadership election, it is clear that that alternative is still needed.

The nationalist Government is moving further away from the real priorities of Scottish people, such as helping struggling families to get through the global cost of living crisis, or helping those who want our Scottish economy to flourish once more, or rebuilding our demoralised and overstretched NHS. Those are the big challenges that we are facing today and that Scottish people want every member of the Scottish Parliament to be laser-focused on. Instead, we have seen the party of Government being consumed by the debate on independence and by furthering its nationalist obsession. The SNP has been fiddling while Rome burns. It has abdicated responsibility for governing our country in favour of attempting to reboot its tired campaign for separation.

Humza Yousaf has been at the forefront of that debate. He has said that every election should be about independence. He has proclaimed himself to be the first activist of the nationalist movement and, yesterday, in his very first act as leader of his party, he demanded another independence referendum from the United Kingdom Government. [



The Presiding Officer:

Thank you. Let us hear Mr Ross.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

That was an image, if we needed it, that showed that the nationalists have the wrong priorities for the country. At a time when our country needs national leadership, we have yet again been given another nationalist leader, but one who is even more divisive than the last. Humza Yousaf will not bring Scotland together. He will not focus on the big challenges that are facing our economy, our public services and families up and down the country. In the past month, he has been running our NHS part-time while prioritising his own leadership ambitions.

In this, his final day as health secretary, figures show that just 63 per cent of patients were seen at accident and emergency within the target times. That is down from 87 per cent, when he was given that most important of jobs within the Government.

His fellow cabinet member, Kate Forbes, was absolutely right to be scathing about his record in government and, it turns out that almost half of the SNP members in the election agreed with her.

Scotland needs a real alternative who is focused on the big challenges that our country is facing. That is why, as leader of the main Opposition party in this chamber, I am putting myself forward for the position of First Minister.

Now, we already know the way that the votes will go. Humza Yousaf has stitched up a backroom deal with the Greens to keep his nationalist Government in power. [



The Presiding Officer:

Members, thank you.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

I will repeat that: Humza Yousaf has stitched up a backroom deal with the Greens to keep his nationalist Government in power and, with an anti-growth party in Government, Scotland will sadly be the poorer as a result.

Today is about the future, too, because the contest that the SNP has just been through shows beyond any doubt that the SNP is not invincible and that continued nationalist government in Scotland is not inevitable. As we enter the post-Sturgeon era, we can see that a post-SNP Scotland is in reach, with a chance to bin the nationalist neverendums and put the real priorities of Scottish people first. It is past time that the SNP paid the price for its failures in Government and its single-minded focus on dividing our country with another independence referendum. To make that happen, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is the only party that can beat the SNP in communities across Scotland in both next year’s general election and the next Scottish Parliament election.

Over the past two years, my party has been building a positive programme that is focused on the real challenges that Scotland faces. [



The Presiding Officer:

Members, thank you.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

I am not sure why SNP members laugh when I am about to speak about the proposed right to addiction recovery bill, which we have published. The bill will tackle Scotland’s drug deaths scandal, and it has been endorsed by members from all sides of the chamber.

In addition, we have set out our plans for a rural development bank to invest in infrastructure that rural communities and farming businesses need to thrive; we are bringing forward a victims law that will ensure that we place the justice system on the side of victims and not that of criminals; we have set out plans for a rent-to-own model and tax cuts for first-time buyers that will ensure that home ownership in Scotland is not an unaffordable dream and can become reality; and we have plans to deliver a skills revolution to ensure that every Scot has a right to retrain. Those are just some of the positive policies from the platform that we have been building.

Today, nationalists in the chamber will give Humza Yousaf a blank cheque to again push forward his party’s independence obsession. However, in the elections to come, Scotland can make the SNP pay the price for ignoring our real priorities. In so many areas across Scotland, the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party is the only party that can make that happen.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

Scotland’s incoming First Minister has been left with an overflowing in-tray to deal with. Our country is in the grip of two devastating crises: an NHS crisis that has been brought about by the current SNP Administration’s failure to prepare, and a cost of living crisis that was created in Downing Street, with rising bills, higher food costs and rampant inflation. Our next First Minister must urgently prioritise those challenges. The people of Scotland will expect nothing less, and they will not forgive a First Minister who chooses instead to focus on their own priorities.

I pledge to always put the people’s priorities first, because, following Nicola Sturgeon’s long period in office, we need a First Minister for all of Scotland and not just for half of the country.

As someone once said,

“More of the same ... is an acceptance of mediocrity” and

“Continuity won’t cut it”.

The conclusion of the bitter SNP leadership contest does not bring an end to the division and incompetence that has been on display in recent weeks. When we look at the in-tray that is waiting in Bute house, it is clear to us that we need a First Minister who does not have the distraction of a broken political party behind them and who is without the culture of secrecy and cover-up that has been the hallmark of 16 years of SNP Government.

It is a regime that has left us with record accident and emergency waiting times, with one in seven Scots on an NHS waiting list; record numbers of drug deaths; record numbers of vacancies for nurses and doctors in our NHS; record levels of homelessness; an entrenched attainment gap; falling business numbers; the ferries scandal; broken promises on green jobs; devastating cuts to councils; and, only last week, in the Scottish Government’s own report, the damning verdict on child poverty that there has been “little recent change”.

We need change. People across our country are crying out for answers to the real issues that they are facing. Our task is to show that Scotland can have a better, more exciting and more prosperous future if we unleash our country’s potential.

A better future for Scotland starts with a plan to unlock the extraordinary talents and innovation of the Scottish people and create more highly paid jobs, high-tech industries and opportunities to reskill, so that working people in Scotland are better off. We want a Scotland where our public services are once again the envy of the world. Scotland is crying out for change, but a new SNP First Minister will not be enough. Scotland needs something different from a continuity candidate.

After years of failure under this SNP Administration, we need a First Minister who truly believes in the extraordinary potential of the Scottish people. I know that our country can do so much better, but we need a First Minister with the political will, the belief in our people and our nation and the driving ambition to deliver the change that Scotland needs. We need a First Minister with the determination to save our NHS by increasing capacity in A and E, providing better NHS 24 support, freeing up beds and valuing our NHS staff by improving their working conditions.

We need a First Minister who is willing to listen to the worries of people and businesses across Scotland as they struggle with the cost of living crisis and who is prepared to take action to help. We need a first Minister who recognises that being green is not about propping up a failed Government in return for ministerial jobs but is about delivering actual green jobs and putting Scotland at the heart of the UK’s renewables revolution. Being First Minister is about having a plan that delivers economic growth and innovation, encourages good business and supports employees. It is about fulfilling the promise of home ownership that has been dashed for far too many in Scotland and refusing to accept that “little recent change” is enough to tackle poverty, and instead making that the defining mission of the office of First Minister.

I know that everyone in this chamber has made up their mind and is not open to persuasion, but I am more interested in winning the debate in the country than in this chamber. People across the country deserve better than a Government that is focused on its own priorities rather than the people’s. My promise to those watching across Scotland is that I will work day and night to earn their trust and win their support, because this is not as good as it gets. Change is possible and I am determined that the Scottish Labour Party that I lead will deliver the change that Scotland needs.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

Presiding Officer, it is the privilege of my life to stand before you and my fellow members as a nominee to be First Minister of Scotland. Although I have, of course, made up my mind about who I am voting for, I thank the other nominees for their remarks.

When my predecessor made her opening contribution on this occasion in 2014, she rightly remarked that to have two female party leaders—herself and Ruth Davidson—nominated was a good advert for modern Scotland. She was right. It is also a signal of the progress that we have made as a country that, as well as having a Parliament in which two of the candidates putting themselves forward today are from minority ethnic communities, a majority of MSPs in this Parliament belong to two parties led by people of colour and of the Muslim faith. The fact that no one bats an eyelid at that tells me that we are making progress in our nation, of which we should all be very proud indeed. [



Although I intend to keep my comments relatively brief ahead of the vote, there is no doubt that Nicola Sturgeon leaves some very big shoes to fill. As well as her many domestic achievements, to which I hope to pay tribute after Parliament has voted, she has built up an international profile for the office of First Minister that leaders of many independent countries—never mind those of devolved Governments—can only dream of. The fact that Scotland is playing such a significant role in many of the key international issues of the day, such as tackling climate change, renewable energy and the wellbeing economy is, in huge part, down to her leadership. Everyone holding the office of First Minister, no matter their views on Scottish independence, should aspire to do likewise. If Parliament votes for me today, I pledge that I will continue to ensure that Scotland is a positive, progressive voice on the world stage.

Over the past few weeks, I and my fellow SNP candidates have had the pleasure of travelling the length and breadth of Scotland, participating in party hustings and debates and also meeting countless local businesses, community groups and members of the public. There is no doubt that people and businesses are feeling the significant pressures of the cost of living crisis. The first job of any First Minister is to keep people safe and to lead them through the tough times and, if elected, that is exactly what I intend to do.

However, what I have also seen over the past few weeks is that people are optimistic. They are ambitious about the future of Scotland. We must always give people hope. We have come through so much together as a country, particularly in the past few years, and we have demonstrated a resilience that many of us thought we did not have. It is often in the darkest of hours that we see the best of humanity. Never has that been more true than during the global pandemic.

In tough times, it is often easy to forget how lucky we are to live in a country that is blessed with such immense natural resources and human talent—one that is brimming with potential and ingenuity. I very firmly believe that Scotland’s best days lie in front of us and, as First Minister, I will work tirelessly to make sure that that is the case.

I have been privileged to hold ministerial office for over a decade, and in that time, it is fair to say, I have been tested in what I am sure most people would agree are some of the toughest roles in Government. I have never shied away from those responsibilities—in fact, I see it as an honour to be entrusted with them. I have always believed that leadership is about running towards and embracing challenges rather than shying away from them.

We might not be able to achieve everything that we want all the time and all at once, but every day in office is an opportunity to make things a bit better than they were yesterday, and I will always be impatient to go faster. If the Parliament chooses me today as its nomination for First Minister, I will never shy away from tackling the big issues that our country faces. I will lead a Government that listens carefully and respects the views of all MSPs. My starting point will always be that we all want the best for Scotland and the people that we are so privileged to represent, and I will stand up unequivocally for this Parliament and against any attempts to undermine devolution.

I will work every hour of every day to harness the potential of Scotland and every single person in it. I will place no limits on the ambitions that we have, collectively, for ourselves, for our country or indeed for the world that we live in.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you. Before we move on to the vote, there will be a short suspension to allow members to access the digital voting system.

14:42 Meeting suspended.

14:47 On resuming—

We move to the vote. [


.] Can we have quiet? Thank you, colleagues.

I remind members that they must vote once only and must use only their yes button in the voting app when voting. If any member records a vote other than a yes vote, we will re-run the voting question. Once the voting for candidates is completed, members who have not voted for a candidate will be given the opportunity to vote to abstain by pressing the yes button.

I will announce the result once all votes have been cast and verified.

The first vote is for Alex Cole-Hamilton. Only members who wish to cast their vote for Alex Cole-Hamilton should take part in this vote, by voting yes. No other members should vote. Members who wish to vote for Alex Cole-Hamilton should vote yes now.

Members voted.

The next vote is for Douglas Ross. Only members who wish to cast their vote for Douglas Ross should take part in this vote, by voting yes. No other member should vote. Members who wish to vote for Douglas Ross should vote yes now.

Members voted.

The vote is closed.

Photo of Roz McCall Roz McCall Conservative

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. I am sorry, but my app would not connect. I would have voted yes.

The Presiding Officer:

Thank you. We will ensure that that is recorded, Ms McCall.

The next vote is for Anas Sarwar. Only members who wish to cast their vote for Anas Sarwar should take part in this vote, by voting yes. No other members should vote. Members who wish to vote for Anas Sarwar should vote yes now.

Members voted.

The vote is closed.

The next vote is for Humza Yousaf. Only members who wish to cast their vote for Humza Yousaf should take part in this vote, by voting yes. No other members should vote. Members who wish to vote for Humza Yousaf should vote yes now.

Members voted.

The vote is closed.

The Presiding Officer:

I can confirm that you have voted, Mr Stewart.

The Presiding Officer:

I can confirm that your vote has been recorded, Ms Somerville.

The Presiding Officer:

I can confirm that your vote has been recorded, Ms Stevenson.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

On a point of order, Presiding Officer. My app has frozen. I would have voted yes, of course.

The Presiding Officer:

I can confirm that your vote has been recorded, Ms McKelvie.

That concludes the votes for all candidates. The next vote is for any members who have not yet voted and who wish to record an abstention.

That concludes this round of voting. There will now be a suspension while the votes are verified.

14:56 Meeting suspended.

15:01 On resuming—

In this round of voting in the selection of the Parliament’s nominee as First Minister, the number of votes cast for each candidate was: Alex Cole-Hamilton 4, Douglas Ross 31, Anas Sarwar 22, Humza Yousaf 71.

Votes for Alex Cole-Hamilton

Division number 1 First Minister

Aye: 4 MSPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

Votes for Douglas Ross

Division number 2 First Minister

Aye: 31 MSPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

Votes for Anas Sarwar

Division number 3 First Minister

Votes for Humza Yousaf

Division number 4 First Minister

Aye: 71 MSPs

Aye: A-Z by last name

The Presiding Officer:

As an overall majority has been reached, the candidate selected as the Parliament’s nominee for the position of First Minister is Humza Yousaf. [


.] I will now call each of the party leaders to respond.

Photo of Douglas Ross Douglas Ross Conservative

I begin by recognising this historic moment. I congratulate Humza Yousaf personally on his selection. I know what an honour it will be for him and how proud it will make his family, who are watching here today. I also congratulate him as the first person from an ethnic minority to become First Minister. The fact that both the First Minister and the Prime Minister represent the UK’s diverse communities sends a strong, positive message to everyone that in this country there are no barriers to what they can achieve. We can all be proud of that. [



That is probably where the consensus will end, but those are genuine, heartfelt comments. [



I have to say, though, that, regrettably, the new First Minister seems to be doing his best to imitate his predecessor. Instead of setting out a platform to focus on Scotland’s real priorities, Humza Yousaf has confirmed that he wants to continue the constitutional conflict with the UK Government, and to continue to attempt to appeal to his divided party rather than the wider Scottish public. The record player has changed, but the tune remains the same. History will look back and judge this to have been a massive missed opportunity for our country.

Although Scottish Conservatives will always look to co-operate with the Scottish Government when it is exclusively focused on tackling the big challenges that Scotland faces, the tone that Humza Yousaf has set for his Government, in choosing to double down on his party’s independence obsession, suggests that those moments might be few and far between. Scottish Conservatives will hold Humza Yousaf’s Government to account when it strays away from the key challenges that Scotland faces today. In this Parliament we will always stand up for the ideas and values that represent the real priorities of Scottish people.

I note that, with the election of Humza Yousaf as his party’s leader, we remain in the position that I am the only party leader who does not represent a seat in one of Scotland’s two largest cities. That gives the Scottish Conservatives additional responsibilities: to stand up for all our villages, towns and cities; to be a champion for rural Scotland; and to represent the whole country.

I also note that, with Humza Yousaf’s election to head up the SNP, I am the only leader of a major political party in Scotland not to have been privately educated at Hutchesons’ grammar school. Coming from a working-class background, I attended my local schools: Alves primary and Forres academy.

Increasingly, it is the Scottish Conservatives who represent the values of working Scotland in the Parliament. As we have shown time and again, on the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill, on the Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act 2021 and on the named person scheme, the Scottish Conservatives are the only ones speaking up for the views of a clear majority of the Scottish public.

Voters across Scotland expect the parties in the Parliament to focus on their priorities, rather than the parties’ own political obsessions. Any party that fails to do that should pay the price for that failure. We were all elected to solve the big challenges facing Scotland. Today, those challenges are as stark as ever: an NHS in crisis, families struggling with the cost of living crisis and an underperforming Scottish economy. It is incumbent on us all to focus on those issues. Let us get on with the job of tackling them for the people of Scotland.

Photo of Anas Sarwar Anas Sarwar Labour

On behalf of Scottish Labour, I offer Humza Yousaf my sincerest congratulations on being nominated as our next First Minister.

Humza Yousaf and I have known each other for many years. I know that, today, he and his family will enjoy a feeling of pride in what he has achieved; I offer a special thought for his wife, his beautiful girls, his mum and dad and his sister, who will all, rightly, be proud today. Regardless of our politics, we should all take immense pride in the fact that our country is to have its first minority ethnic First Minister. Whatever our political differences—there will be many in the months ahead—today’s significance cannot be understated. It is something that our grandparents would never have imagined when they arrived in Scotland and made this country their home.

However, reaching this historic moment has not been easy. I know that Humza Yousaf has faced personal abuse and racism—as have so many others who do not have the platform that he and I are fortunate to have. I am proud of the work that he and I have done alongside others to stand against hatred and bigotry. Humza, I promise that I will continue to stand alongside you in that fight for us all. [



In extending my congratulations to Humza Yousaf on being appointed as the first First Minister from a minority ethnic background, for obvious reasons I hope that he is not the last. In the meantime, as I said in my earlier remarks, we need a First Minister for all of Scotland. I understand that, during the SNP leadership contest, which we all watched in disbelief, he had to pander to his party faithful by promising to prioritise independence. I urge him to leave the inward-looking, divisive approach behind and to work on behalf of every person in our country, regardless of their constitutional position.

Nothing is more important right now than the twin crises that our nation faces: the NHS crisis, created by the SNP Government, and the cost of living crisis, exacerbated by the Tories. That is not all that is in the in-tray. The new First Minister has been left to pick up a catalogue of failure by his predecessors and the challenge ahead is immense.

After 15 years of SNP rule, not a single institution in Scotland is stronger. I hope that this moment ushers in some better governance for the people of Scotland, but if I am honest, I do not hold out much hope. It is clear that the SNP does not have the answers that Scotland needs. The First Minister now leads a chaotic and divided party, out of touch and out of ideas.

There are those who would describe today’s events as a coronation without an election. One might even say that it is

“a farce inflicted on Scotland” and that the SNP has

“failed the democratic test.”—[

Official Report

, 22 November 2001; c 4158-9.]

I know that that might cause discomfort for some on the Government benches. However, those are not my words; they were said by John Swinney, when he made his speech in 2001.

Mr Yousaf has inherited the SNP’s woeful record, but he has not inherited Nicola Sturgeon’s mandate. That is why we need an election. It is only through a change of Government that we will be able to deliver the better governance that Scotland needs. If the First Minister is, as he describes himself, “a democracy defender”, he will call an election now. However, if he lacks the courage for that, the least that we can ask is that he uses the power of Government to change people’s lives for the better.

This Parliament has the immense power to change Scotland—the opportunity is ahead of us and we should take it.

I repeat my promise: where we can find consensus or common cause in the chamber, we should work together. When we disagree, as we inevitably will, we in the Labour Party will always attempt to offer positive alternatives. It is the job of everyone in the chamber to look to the future, not the past, and to help to realise the unfulfilled potential of devolution. We can do that if we rise to the ambition of the people of Scotland—for that, I will strive every day. Humza Yousaf must do the same.

Photo of Lorna Slater Lorna Slater Green

My Scottish Green colleagues and I were delighted to vote for Humza Yousaf as our next First Minister. That follows the unanimous decision by our party council yesterday to continue with the Bute house agreement between the Scottish Greens and the Scottish Government.

Today represents an historic milestone—Humza Yousaf is our youngest-ever First Minister, our first Muslim leader and the first minority ethnic leader of a devolved Government in the UK. It also represents the continuation of our historic agreement, which brought Greens into Government for the first time in the UK. Humza Yousaf has been a great supporter of the Bute house agreement; that support has been consistent and strong throughout the past six weeks, and for that, he has my and my party’s gratitude.

Let me remind members why the Bute house agreement is so important to us and to the future of Scotland. First, the agreement is built on a shared commitment to constructive, collaborative and grown-up politics. Politics that builds on good faith and trust as its core values is the type of grown-up and collaborative politics that this Parliament was designed to embody, and which citizens take for granted in other European countries. We sit here today in this horseshoe shape for a reason. The design of the chamber seeks to reject the adversarial “opposition for opposition’s sake” style of Westminster politics. As many Parliaments across Europe do, here in Holyrood we sit together in a semicircle to build consensus across the chamber.

Secondly, the Bute house agreement reflects the pro-independence ambition that Scotland voted for in 2021. It delivers a Government that is committed to Scotland becoming a modern independent nation at the heart of the European Union. I look forward to the two parties of Government continuing to build and make that case.

Finally, the agreement is based on a bold and progressive policy platform that is making Scotland fairer and greener. I am proud of what we have delivered in the first 18 months of our collaborative Government. That includes an emergency rent freeze, free bus travel for young people, record funding for tackling the nature and climate emergencies, doubling of the Scottish child payment, an active travel investment programme that rivals the best of our European neighbours’ programmes, an energy strategy that recognises that we need to leave oil and gas in the ground, and more.

I look forward to building on those successes and delivering more for the people of Scotland, our climate and our environment, because our work has only just begun. From delivering on our commitment to create highly protected marine areas—so that our oceans can regenerate after decades of decline—to a bold new climate plan, we will deliver a greener Scotland. From bringing in permanent rent controls and new rights for tenants to delivering new social security protections, we will deliver a fairer Scotland, and from banning cruel conversion practices and bringing in safe access zones around abortion clinics, we will deliver a more compassionate Scotland.

I conclude by saying that my Scottish Green colleagues and I look forward to working with the new First Minister and Scottish Government to deliver a fairer and greener independent Scotland. It is needed now more than ever.

Photo of Alex Cole-Hamilton Alex Cole-Hamilton Liberal Democrat

I offer the congratulations of the Scottish Liberal Democrats to Humza Yousaf on his nomination as First Minister. I wish a belated Ramadan Mubarak to him and to his family in the gallery. A person of Humza Yousaf’s faith and ethnicity ascending to the highest office in the land is a truly historic moment in our nation’s progress.

I hope that Humza Yousaf was made to feel welcome in Murrayfield yesterday. Members might recall that he was also there four weeks ago during the recent council by-election. I believe it to be a sign of things to come that his presence and involvement in that campaign saw the SNP lose a third of its vote, and the seat, to the Liberal Democrats in the largest by-election victory in my party’s history.

I first got to know Humza Yousaf during another Ramadan, 11 years ago, when I was in youth work. I took him on a community shift in Govan. He was fasting—he had not had a drop of water or anything to eat—and we walked for nine miles over five hours, talking to young people along the way and engaging them in activities. As Humza Yousaf had been recently elected, he did not want that to get in the way of his interactions with the people whom we met, and he asked me and the other youth workers to introduce him simply as “Harry”. We duly did that; everything went fine and he was not recognised. However, when we reached Elder Park, one young lad piped up and said, “Yeah, but aren’t you Harry Yousaf off the telly?”

The measure of effective leadership is to listen to good ideas and to recognise that a good idea is a good idea regardless of whether it comes from people like the kids in Govan or from the Opposition. It is about being willing to reach across the aisles when times get tough, as we all did in the early days of the pandemic.

The measure of effective leadership is to raise the standard of public debate above the divisions of the past. It is about grown-up politics. In 16 years, we have not seen a great deal of that.

The new First Minister has said that he will talk to all Opposition party leaders. I welcome that—he has my number. I will tell him about our desire for a dedicated mental health minister who will actually reduce waiting lists; about the desperate need for more support and meaningful care pathways for the nearly 200,000 Scots who are suffering from long Covid; about the mums in the far north who are forced, because their maternity unit was closed, to travel two hours down the treacherous A9 to give birth; about how we can lift attainment in our schools through a nursery premium, and by attracting and retaining the best teachers; about the deposit return scheme, which is a pig’s ear of a good idea that will take Scottish produce off Scottish shelves; and about why this Government needs to stop the dumping of raw sewage into our rivers and on to our beaches. I could go on.

There is a disconnect between the focus of the governing parties and the needs and interests of this country. People are turning away from the divisions of the past, and their patience for those who deviate from what matters to them is finite. Change is coming for both our Governments. We need to fix our broken politics and restore integrity.

I did not prevail today but, just as it did in Murrayfield, change is coming and the Scottish Liberal Democrats will be part of what is next. For now, I want to recognise that this is a significant day for Humza Yousaf, as it is for the progress of diversity in our country. Well done, Harry.

Photo of Humza Yousaf Humza Yousaf Scottish National Party

I thank the other party leaders for their remarks. I am very aware, of course, that they might not be so nice to me ever again. Although the vote might have seemed like a formality, the fact that a few of my colleagues raised a point of order just after voting for me raised my blood pressure ever so slightly. I remind Anas Sarwar that I have his father’s number on speed dial so, if he is not nice to me, I will be having words.

The generosity of the comments that have been made matches the spirit of the remarks that Donald Dewar made 24 years ago when he became Scotland’s first First Minister. He emphasised the “common aims” that we share across the chamber of giving people

“a better life and a better future.”—[

Official Report

, 13 May 1999; c 25.]

The Government that I lead will very much dedicate itself to those aims, and I hope to work with colleagues from all parties in doing so.

This is a proud day for me and a proud day for my family. I can hear my three-year-old speaking to me and see her waving to me from the gallery—I am only on my second page, darling; there is a little bit more to come. I hope that it is also a proud day for Scotland. It speaks to our values as a country that I stand here as the first-ever Muslim to lead a western democratic nation. Try telling that to 16-year-old Humza Yousaf, who, post-9/11, was questioned constantly about his loyalty to this country. Collectively, we have come a long way.

I am joined by too many family members and friends to mention, but I hope that the chamber will indulge me, as there are a few I would like to mention. My mum and dad have always been unwavering in their support of me. It was often the norm of expectation that we, as young Scots Asians, would end up as doctors, dentists, pharmacists, accountants or lawyers. I remember vividly the nerves that I felt in the pit of my stomach on the day that I decided to tell my parents that I wanted to study politics instead of law. Far from giving me a clip around the ear, as my mum put it in news reports yesterday, they could not have been more supportive, saying that it was vital that people like us were represented in politics. From that day to this very moment, they have encouraged me every single step of the way. I could not be making history without them.

To my wife and my girls, you are my everything, and being First Minister will not change that. It might mean that you see me slightly less often, but I say to my three-year-old, Amal, in particular to be aware that there are plenty of stairs in Bute house, so if you misbehave, there will still be a naughty step to put you on—although I am pleased that, so far, everyone seems to be on their best behaviour.

The years after 9/11 were not easy for Muslims growing up in Scotland or, indeed, elsewhere across the UK. I have lost count of how many times my identity or loyalty to Scotland—the only country that I have ever called, and will ever call, home—has been questioned over the years. There was a time not all that long ago when I felt that I simply did not belong here in Scotland.

I hope that my going from there to now leading the Government as Scotland’s sixth First Minister sends a strong message to every single person out there who feels that they do not belong. No matter what anyone says, no matter who you are, no matter whether Scotland has been your home for a day or for 10 generations, no matter your ethnicity, no matter your gender, no matter your religion and no matter your sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability, this is your home. Do not let anyone ever tell you that you are not good enough. Do not let anyone ever tell you that you do not belong. As First Minister, I will always fight for your rights and, where possible, I will do everything that I can to advance them.

I will always stand up for social justice more widely and for making Scotland a fairer, as well as a wealthier, nation. A key priority of my Government will be to protect every Scot, as far as we can, from the harm that has been inflicted by the cost of living crisis. One of my first conversations as First Minister will be with anti-poverty groups to explore what more we can do, within our devolved powers, to tackle child poverty.

We will protect and reform our NHS, social care and other vital public services to support a wellbeing economy and improve the life chances of people right across our country.

We will rapidly develop plans to extend childcare, improve rural housing, support small businesses and boost innovation.

We will keep the promise that we have made to people with experience of the care system. We will do so not just for young people—as important as that is, of course—because we recognise that care experience is lifelong.

We will bring forward reforms of the criminal justice system, continue our work to reduce the number of drug deaths and create a new deal with local government to empower local authorities to meet the challenges of the day.

We will support businesses, we will seize the economic and social opportunities of a just transition to net zero and we will continue to ensure that Scotland uses its voice on the international stage.

On Thursday, I will nominate the team of ministers who will deliver on those priorities. I will then set out more detailed policies to the chamber in the first week after the Easter recess.

I will be very proud to build on the record of the Government that was led by Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney: the Scottish child payment, the expansion of childcare, Scotland’s international leadership on the transition to net zero and their championing of equality. Through all those achievements and many more besides, Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney have left a significant legacy, for which I am very grateful to them, but I know that there is so much more to come from both of them—well, certainly once Nicola has finished taking her driving theory test, of course.

I will also continue to argue tirelessly, as they did, for independence. My view—it is of, course, the view of the majority in the Parliament—is that we will be able to deliver on our priorities more effectively when Scotland is independent. We will certainly deliver them less effectively if we allow the UK Government to arbitrarily veto this Parliament’s legislation.

Unsurprisingly, I will argue vigorously for independence. While I do so, I understand that the strongest argument that the Government can make for independence is to make the best possible use of the Parliament’s existing powers. I want to reach out to other parties across the chamber as I do that, which is why the point on which I end today is not so much what the Government will do but how we will do it.

At the start of my speech, I stressed the common aims and values that we all share. Listening to many of the remarks that have been made in the chamber, not just today but after Nicola Sturgeon’s statement last Thursday, I think that there is probably a shared appetite across the chamber for a politics that is slightly less polarised and a bit less confrontational.

The Government already works in co-operation with the Green Party under the Bute house agreement. That will continue, but I also make an open offer to all leaders of all parties in the chamber. I do not make this offer naively; I know that we will continue quite frequently to disagree forcefully. That is as it should be—politics requires strong, reasoned, respectful disagreement.

For all those disagreements, however, I know that we share many areas of common ground, including many of the areas that have been outlined not just by me but by each party leader today. That is why I will request early meetings with the leaders of other parties in the chamber. I want to work with you, where we can, to achieve those shared aims. I believe that there is a willingness for that in the chamber, and a desire for it across the country.

Just as I will reach out within this Parliament, I will reach out beyond it, too. To the UK Government, I stress that I will work with you where I can, when I can, in the best interests of our nation. To our vital partners in local government, the business community, the third sector and the wider public sector, I promise that this Government will listen to you and will work with you. Above all else, to the people of Scotland, I make this pledge: I will never forget that I am First Minister for all of Scotland, regardless of who you voted for, where you live or where you have come from.

Yesterday, I mentioned my grandparents. In recent days, I have also thought a lot about my great friend and mentor, the late Bashir Ahmad. He, too, came to Scotland in the 1960s—he started off driving buses, and he became the first member of this Parliament from an ethnic minority. He was by far the kindest and most gentle soul I have ever known, and I think that if we were all a little bit more like Bashir, our world would be in a far better place.

He used to say that it is not important where you come from; what matters is where we are going together as a nation. It is a phrase that I think of often, and a phrase that will guide how I and my Government govern. The Parliament has just given me the opportunity to help steer this nation’s course, as we make the next stage of that journey together. Doing that will be the honour and the privilege of my life, and I will strive every single minute of every day to be worthy of it. I look forward to working with each and every one of you as I do so in the best interests of our nation. [



The Presiding Officer:

On behalf of the Parliament, I congratulate Humza Yousaf as the Parliament’s nominee for the position of First Minister. I look forward to working with him.