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17/05/16 16:28

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to lead next Scottish Government

First Minister
Scottish Parliament
May 17, 2016

Thank you, Presiding Officer, for your kind words.

And thank you to my fellow members of Parliament for selecting me as your nominee to be the next First Minister of Scotland.

There is, quite simply, no greater privilege than to be elected to serve as the First Minister of our country.

I pledge that for each and every day that I hold office, I will strive to fulfil the duties placed on me to the very best of my ability.

And I promise to use all of the powers that this office places in my hands to make our country an even better place to live.

Presiding Officer,

It means a great deal to me to be joined here today by my family.

I want to take the opportunity to thank them - especially my husband, my parents and my sister - for the unwavering support they give me.

I know I don't tell them often enough, but I simply could not do the job that I do without their support, and I want them to know how grateful I am for it.

I also want to say a special thank you to my niece and nephews - each of them has what I can only describe as a unique ability to keep my feet on the ground and remind me of what really matters in life.

Presiding Officer,

This is a parliament of new beginnings.

I lead a third term government - but I am a First Minister elected, for the first time, in my own right.

More than a third of MSPs are new to this chamber - giving parliament a renewed sense of energy and a fresher feel than at any time since 1999.

We have a new principal party of opposition - perhaps making the choice of the kind of country we want to be sharper than it has been before.

And we are a parliament preparing to assume important new powers over tax and social security, as we take the next steps, as a country, on our journey of self government.

With these new beginnings come new and higher expectations.

It is the duty of each and every one of us to live up to those expectations.

Of course, we represent different political parties for a reason.

Each of us wants what is best for Scotland, but we have different ideas - sometimes very different ideas - about how to achieve it.

We should not seek to mask these differences. Politics at its best will always be a creative battle of ideas.

But - just as importantly - we should not allow our differences to obscure the areas of agreement that do exist between us.

I hope that this session of parliament will see us expend as much effort on finding common ground, as we do on debating our differences.

That won't always - perhaps rarely - lead to unanimity.

But we must be prepared to reach out beyond our own party boundaries to build alliances across the chamber - and in the country as a whole - for the common good.

As First Minister, I recognise my duty to lead by example.

On May 5, the people of Scotland gave me a clear mandate to govern but also an instruction to do so inclusively.

It is that verdict of the people that will determine the tone and the substance of my government.

I will lead a government that seeks to win votes, not simply by the force of our numbers, but by the strength of our arguments - and by the support we are able to build for our policies in the country as a whole.

When we make mistakes, as all governments do - though we will make strenuous efforts not to - we will try to have the courage and humility to face up to them and put them right.

And we will not assume a monopoly of wisdom. Good ideas exist across this chamber and I promise that we will always seek to judge ideas on merit, rather than on their party of origin.

That is the open, inclusive and outward looking approach to government that I will endeavour to take.

If it is matched by opposition parties determined to be robust, but also constructive, in how they discharge their duties, then I believe it can make a real difference to how we do business in this chamber and, ultimately, to how well we serve the people of Scotland.

Of course, in seeking to make common cause, we will be guided by principle and by the manifesto we were elected on.

And so the alliances we seek to build will be progressive.

We stand for an economy founded on inclusive growth - for fair work and fair tax.

We stand for strong public services.

We stand for universal services like free prescriptions and free education and for a social security system with dignity at its heart.

We stand for human rights and trade union rights.

We stand for fair and transparent land ownership.

We stand strong in our determination to protect our environment for the generations that come after us.

Above all, we stand for a society that offers opportunity for all.

As I accept nomination as First Minister today, the promise I am making to the country - indeed the promise I am making to myself - is that I will do everything I possibly can to ensure that this moment in our history marks the beginning of a new age of national self-confidence.

Confidence, of course, in our strength, our wealth and our potential as a country.

But more than that - much more than that - confidence that ours is a country where opportunity can flourish for everyone lucky enough to live here.

Confidence that wherever you were born, whatever your gender or your family background, you will have the opportunity to make the most of your talent and fulfil your potential.

That is why education is so firmly at the heart of everything my government aspires to do.

Transforming early years education, raising standards in our schools, ensuring fair access to the opportunities that come after school - these will not just be the hallmarks of my government and the issues we ask to be judged on, they are also the foundation of the kind of society I want us to build.

They will be the building blocks of our new age of confidence.

Presiding Officer,

I have no desire to be First Minister for its own sake.

I want to use the opportunity I have as First Minister to change our country for the better.

I know that my job, as First Minister, now and at all times, is to govern for all the people of our country.

That is what I pledge to do.

Two weeks ago, I asked for a personal mandate as First Minister and I was given one.

The people of Scotland have put their trust in me to lead.

My task now is to repay that trust.

To take tough decisions, knowing that I may not always get them right.

And to lead a government with purpose - a government that is bold, ambitious and creative.

I know that the next five years will throw up challenges aplenty.

There will be ups and there will be downs.

I will work every day to ensure that there are many more of the former than of the latter.

And I will strive to meet whatever comes my way with strength, courage and always, I hope, with a positive outlook.

What I know beyond doubt is that I will be inspired and sustained each day by the support of my family, my colleagues and by an unshakeable belief in the potential of our country and the people who live here.

Presiding Officer,

Like many of us, you were present in this chamber when it was officially opened in 2004.

On that day, Liz Lochhead, who would become Scotland’s second Makar, read a poem written by the late Edwin Morgan, our first Makar.

The poem closes with these words of wisdom. They are words penned by a Makar on behalf of the people - words that every man and woman elected to serve in this parliament, now and in the years to come, should carry in their heart:

We give you our consent to govern, don't pocket it and ride away.

We give you our deepest dearest wish to govern well, don't say we have no mandate to be so bold.

We give you this great building, don't let your work and hope be other than great when you enter and begin.

So now begin. Open the doors and begin.

Presiding officer,

This parliament, with its new powers and responsibilities, its new members and its newly elected First Minister, has a renewed mandate to be bold.

So let us approach the next 5 years with a passion for hard work, a sense of great hope, and a determination not just to live up to but to exceed the expectations of the people we serve.

That is what I will strive to do each and every day.

So now, let us begin.