This Parliament cannot be a prisoner of the past
Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale responded in the Scottish Parliament today to the nomination of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister. Here is the full text of her speech.
There is more that unites us than divides us across this chamber and today every party in this place will wish Nicola Sturgeon well and offer her congratulations as she begins a fresh term as First Minister.
It is the votes of MSPs in this chamber that officially nominate her for the office and title of First Minister of Scotland again today, but it was the votes of the people of Scotland that really put her there.
Nicola Sturgeon will be acutely aware of the responsibility on her shoulders. She is the leader of the first Scottish Government to achieve three terms in office and she is the most powerful First Minister that this country has ever seen. With the mandate that the people have given her, I hope she uses it to be bold.
I hope she has the courage to change course. To use her power to challenge vested interests, to stand up for the majority and to do everything she can to make Scotland a country where your destiny in life is determined not by your postcode but by your potential.
Presiding Officer, the Scottish people have delivered a result in this election that has matched a strong Scottish Government with a strong Scottish Parliament to keep it in check. The people have changed the balance of power in this Parliament and they have deprived the government of a majority. That means an even greater responsibility on the First Minister to build consensus and to reach out to parties that represent the wide and varied interests of people across Scotland.
And each time she reaches out, she’ll be faced with a choice. A fork in the road. She can look to the left where she’ll find allies in progressive parties, who believe in the power of government to transform lives, or she can look right, to conservative forces who ask government to do less and cut more.
I hope and expect the First Minister to use her mandate to be radical and to use all the powers available to change the lives of the people who live in our great country.
In navigating minority government, the First Minister might want to take a leaf out of her predecessor’s book when he said: “The Parliament will be one in which the Scottish Government relies on the merits of its legislation, not the might of a Parliamentary majority.” For my part, I will take some advice from one of my predecessors, Donald Dewar. When he was nominated as First Minister, he said: “We are indeed a country with a past. The past has shaped us, but our task now is to shape the future.”
Since Donald was First Minister we have written new chapters in Scotland’s story. We have seen the parties in power change, our Parliament has come of age, and we have had a referendum which has changed the face of our nation forever. Whatever roads we may choose to go down in the future, this Parliament cannot be a prisoner of the past. We have to take the best of what we have learned and use it to take our country forward. Our job, as at the birth of this Parliament, is to shape the future.
Let us be inspired by our past, let us not be bound by it.
For the next five years, this chamber should echo with the same energy and passion that we saw in 2014. It should be fuelled by the same hope and expectation that people felt when they voted both yes and no.
And it should be the place where we don’t just debate the kind of society we want to build, but the place where we lay its foundations. And that’s a responsibility we all carry.