Shirley-Anne Somerville – Get to know your candidate.

SHIRLEY-ANNE Somerville is determined 2016 will be her year to enter Holyrood.

imageThe SNP candidate for Dunfermline had to overcome disappointment at the ballot box when she failed to win Edinburgh North against Labour’s Malcolm Chisholm in 2011, and then missed out in the Dunfermline by-election in 2013 against Cara Hilton, who was also standing for Labour.

But Somerville, who was the Yes campaign’s director of communications, believes her campaigning skills and talents as a politician have been strengthened by her setbacks.

“I have learned from my experiences of defeat and grown a lot as a politician. I believe I’ve come back a more experienced candidate,” she said. “I have a great deal of respect for Malcolm, he had a strong personal vote, which made him a difficult candidate to be against, but we ran him close and I think I just lost by about 600 votes”.

Somerville was born in the Fife village of Cardenden and attended Kirkcaldy High School before studying economics and politics at Strathclyde University.

The 41-year-old, who has two young daughters, began her working life as a housing officer before moving into campaigning roles, including for the Chartered Institute of Housing and for the Royal College of Nursing.

Interested in politics at an early age, she joined the SNP at 16 and quickly got to know fellow youth activists Shona Robison, who is now Health Secretary, as well as party leader Nicola Sturgeon.

In 2007, she entered Holyrood on the regional list as a Lothians MSP and served as a parliamentary aide to Finance Secretary John Swinney during the session, as well as being the party’s deputy whip in the parliamentary group.

She was also a member of the cross-party group on men’s violence against women and children, and a co-convener of the cross party group on climate change.

But the unexpected landslide victory of the SNP in the constituency seats in 2011 meant Somerville lost her list seat.

“It was a bittersweet feeling,” she said. “I was defeated because the SNP were so successful in the constituencies. If you are going to get defeated then you may as well do so because your party has done so well. It gave me some comfort.”

Looking ahead to next week, she hopes to be given the opportunity to represent the people of Dunfermline in the next session of the Scottish Parliament.

“I was pleased that the SNP manifesto included a commitment to look at a feasibility study for the extension of the Stirling-Alloa line to Dunfermline.

“That would be a tremendous boost to local commuters, it would give direct access to Glasgow and would be great for businesses in the area. There is so much potential in tourism and West Fife, and a link [like] this would help,” she said.

Somerville is also keen to keep up pressure on the Labour-controlled Fife Council about school facilities in a growing Dunfermline.

“A lot of families have moved over to Dunfermline from Edinburgh but one of the issues is making sure there is adequate schooling and other services to meet the extra demand,” she added. “It’s fantastic that Dunfermline is booming but the council has an obligation to make sure it is providing enough facilities – that will be one of my key priorities if elected next month.”

 

Holyrood Election

The campaign to elect Shirley Anne Somerville as our SNP MSP in the May 5th election is well underway.     We have put together a couple of articles which show why we should vote SNP.

The first entitled;  2016:  Why Vote SNP shows what an SNP Government has achieved whilst in power since 2007 and here is the link  to this article.  The second article entitled:  2016 – More Reasons to vote SNP outlines what has been committed to if we win a majority Government in 2016 and can be accessed here.

If you have any questions and would like someone to visit you please contact any of our executive officers on our Contacts page.

John Swinney’s Conference Speech

John SwinneyJohn Swinney launched the 2016 Holyrood Campaign with his address at Conference.

“Our task – together – is to convince the people of Scotland that the SNP Government has earned the chance to remain the Government of our country.    To steward Scotland through the next challenges we face.  

I believe we have the best team, the right policies and the clear vision Scotland needs.    I believe we are capable of leading this nation on to great things.

That is our task.  We have a job to do.”

“The second Party Conference I ever attended was in the Music Hall in this city back in 1981.  There were many differences between that Conference and this one.

This Conference is certainly much bigger.   Support for the Party is definitely much higher.  Today, the Party is decisively more united than it was in 1981.

But some things remain visibly the same. That Conference and this one are places for vigorous debate. That Conference and this conference are made up of people from every locality of Scotland devoted to securing the best future for the people of our country. 

That is the enduring strength of the Scottish National Party.

 Friends,
When we last met, back in March, we were just a few days away from the first of the leader’s debates in the General Election.   Our First Minister made us all very proud of her that night.

She showed voters throughout these islands that there is another way. 

She stood for tolerance in the face of Nigel Farage. 

She stood for fairness in the face of David Cameron.

And she stood for passion in the face of insipid compromise from Ed Miliband.

She stood for Scotland and the values we all hold dear.  Our First Minister didn’t simply win the debates, she changed the terms of the debate.

Yes, conference, that was a proud night. 

But Nicola wasn’t finished. 

She led this party – she led you and me and thousands like us across this country – to the greatest election victory in our nation’s history.

She led us to May 7th

The night we all but removed the failed unionist voices from Scotland and replaced them with SNP MPs determined to speak up for our country. 

And so, Conference, it is little wonder that the Tory press has branded her “the most dangerous woman in Britain”.

They fear her. They fear you. They fear this Party.

I don’t know when we will next fight another referendum on Independence. It will come only when the people of Scotland want it to happen.

But I do know why the unionists are so desperate to rule out another referendum.  I do know why they are scared of a democratic vote.  Because I know what this movement, this party, can do. I have seen what the power and passion this Party can achieve.

I know we can win the argument for Independence.

 Friends,  A year almost to the day since the UK General Election, we will stand before the Scottish people again and ask for their support.

The question then will not be one of yes or no; Independence or the Union?

That will be decided on another day, at another time.

The question will be, who stands for Scotland?

The question will be, who has what it takes to lead this nation each and every day they are in office?   Who has the record, who has the team, who has the vision to take this country forward and make it the fairer, more prosperous nation it can be?

I believe this party – this SNP Government – has the record, the team and the vision to get the job done.  To build a better Scotland. To create a fairer country. To deliver the prosperity we all need.

I believe that come May 2016, this Party can win that record third term in office.

I recently had the great privilege of being asked by our Party Leader to take on the role of Campaign Director for the Scottish General Election.

Friends,  We have fought many elections together. And over the years, in good elections as well as not so good ones, we have learned the lessons we had to learn to develop the winning habit. 

But you know – and I know – that the winning habit is built on hard work. It is built on streets being pounded and doors being knocked. 

It is built on a commitment to speaking direct to the people of Scotland on the doorstep, in cities, towns and villages the length and breadth of the land.

Since the Westminster election, I have listened in disbelief to the stories from within the Labour campaign.  Tales of constituencies where Labour had not knocked a door in decades. Stories of MPs who had forgotten how to connect with their communities – if indeed they ever connected in the first place.

Those are the symptoms of a Labour Party that took the voters – that took Scotland – for granted.

Well, on May 7th we stopped Labour taking Scotland for granted once and for all.

And conference, as Campaign Director, I make you this solemn promise.

The SNP will never stop knocking on doors, connecting with constituents, talking to the people and listening to their concerns.

Not simply because it is good politics but because it is who we are. It is from where we draw our strength – directly from being close to the people of Scotland.

At this election, we will reach out to every part of Scotland.  To long-time supporters and new found friends.  To new Scots and familiar faces.   To Yes voters and to No voters.

Because we – the SNP – are the National Party of – all of – Scotland.

When we take our message to the doorsteps, we will do so in the knowledge that we have a record of which we can be proud.

Every time we knock a door at the election, we know we are speaking to people who this SNP Government has helped.

We have kept university tuition free – helping tens of thousands students get on with the job of learning.

We have kept the bus pass for our pensioners and prescriptions for the sick.

We have expanded apprenticeships and invested in colleges.

We have ended the bedroom tax and implemented the living wage across the public sector.

We have delivered record investment in our health service. More than 12 billion pounds this year –  3 billion pounds more than under Labour.

We have protected household incomes by freezing the Council Tax.

Conference, the opposition will sneer from the sidelines. They can do nothing else. But with 201 days to go – yes, just 201 days – we can be proud that our record stands up to any and all scrutiny.

Scotland’s SNP Government is delivering for the people of this country.

We have to deliver in the face of significant Tory cuts over the next few years.

Next month, George Osborne will deliver his spending review. 

He isn’t just planning to balance the budget.

No, he is going much, much further. 

He plans to run a current budget surplus of more than 40 billion pounds.

When public services are crying out for investment,

When the disabled are being told their benefits are being cut,

When families are feeding their children from foodbanks,

This Tory Chancellor plans to runs a budget surplus greater than the entire budget of the Scottish Government.

That, Conference, is the triumph of ideology over compassion, of privilege over need. 

That Conference, is what the Tories plan to inflict on the people of Scotland.

And, it does not stop there.

Starting next year, George Osborne plans ninety-seven billion pounds of consolidation. 

Just 12 billion of that is from tackling tax avoidance and other tax measures. 

33 billion pounds will be taken from welfare.

So for all the talk of blue-collar Toryism in recent weeks, there we have the truth laid out in cold, hard numbers. 

The cut to the most vulnerable is almost three times the size of the contribution from the Tories’ rich tax-avoiding friends.

But then, there was never any doubt that George Osborne is a Tory.

No, the real shock, was how long it took the Labour Party to understand what was going on.

Labour were FOR the Fiscal Charter, then AGAINST the Fiscal Charter, then only some wanted to vote FOR, then only some wanted to vote AGAINST, then some wanted to do the decent, principled thing and ABSTAIN.

Come off it. What is there to debate here?

From Day 1 the Tory Fiscal Charter was about entrenching the war on public investment the Tories started in 2010. There was no need for debate. No need for a wobble.  If there was anything left in the soul of the Labour Party, from Day 1 Labour should have opposed it.

Many thought Labour had rediscovered its soul with the election of the Jeremy Corbyn.

Well on Wednesday, we saw the truth.

Labour only opposed the Fiscal Mandate because on Sunday, Nicola Sturgeon pointed out to them there was an alternative. An alternative that could see a current Budget balance by 2019/20 but with a further £150billion available to support public services and investment over that period.

Labour would have happily voted for the Fiscal Mandate without that helpful prod from our First Minister.

There you have it. It’s now up to Nicola Sturgeon to save the Labour Party from its own stupidity.

Conference, the focus of your SNP Government is to build our economy, tackle inequality, and protect our public services.

We stand in a city that has seen the oil wealth of two generations flow through it.

Yet travel to Northfield, just a few miles from this hall and you will see poverty that should have no place in modern Scotland.

We are a wealthy country. Yet, we are a country blighted by the obscenity of poverty.

We have natural resources that are the envy of many; yet they benefit only the few.

We don’t simply want to promote growth so that it pays the bills to allow us to tackle inequality. 

We want to tackle inequality because doing so promotes growth. 

Inequality hinders people from achieving their potential and weakens the fabric of society. It limits opportunities and reduces the contribution people can make. 

It dilutes skills and erodes talent. 

Conference, UK trickle-down economics have failed the people of Northfield. 

We must now lead the national effort that tackles inequality and provides hope to all of the people of Scotland.

That approach is central to the Scottish Government economic strategy.

Despite our recent strong performance, with 12 consecutive quarters of uninterrupted growth, we’re still vulnerable to the legacy of the recession. 

Output and employment are back above their pre-recession peak but challenges remain in our labour market including underemployment, low productivity, stagnant real wages and the recent rise in unemployment demonstrates the importance of sustaining public investment.

We need to ensure that our economy remains competitive and continues to create skilled and well paid job opportunities. We need to adapt to an ageing population, and we need to make progress to the low-carbon age.

This is the job we have to do in the next few years.

That is the task of the next Scottish Government.

And, at the election in May, people can entrust these challenges to the SNP or they can gamble with the untried, untrusted and divided Labour Party.

Our task – your task – is to persuade the people of Scotland that the one, the only party to entrust these challenges to is Scotland’s Party– the SNP.

Conference, 

We have set out our economic priorities to take on these challenges – Investment, Innovation, Internationalisation and Inclusive growth.

Long-term economic growth and stability requires investment in the skills of our workforce, and in our physical and digital infrastructure.

What better way to invest in the skills of our workforce that what happened this morning. Earlier today, Caledonian MacBrayne signed the contract to construct two new ferries with the Fergusson Yard at Port Glasgow, anchoring 150 jobs and giving that yard the future its outstanding workforce deserve.

What better way to invest in our infrastructure, than through projects like the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route, now under construction by this SNP Government after decades of delay.

Projects like the new crossing rising majestically from the waters of the Forth.

And like the Borders Rail – opened just a few weeks ago – the longest new rail line in the UK in 100 years.

Conference, each of those projects – delivered on time and on budget – is the SNP in action.

And today, I can announce another great capital project that will deliver jobs and investment.

For many years, it has taken too long to travel between this great city of Aberdeen and the UK’s fastest growing city of Inverness.

We have started to change that, with our commitment to dualling the A96 linking by road these two growing cities.

But I can tell conference that today we went further, this time by rail.

This morning we signed the contract for work on upgrading the rail line from here to Inverness. It will deliver investment of 170 million pounds, providing jobs and economic growth to both cities for decades to come.

That’s the SNP Government delivering jobs and investment to the North of Scotland.

More than a third of the total growth we have seen in recent times has been delivered by the construction sector and our investment in capital projects. 

It hasn’t come about because of the austerity of the Tory Chancellor. 

It wasn’t delivered by the carping of the Labour Party.

It’s come about by your SNP Government investing in Scotland’s future.

Why? Because we believe we can build that future, brick by brick, girder by girder.  Sustained investment to equip Scotland’s economy for the great days that lie ahead.

But conference, in the modern world our investment programme isn’t just about bricks and girders. It’s also about connecting every part of Scotland to the digital world. 

Wherever I go in Scotland, people make clear to me the importance of digital connectivity – good mobile and broadband connections. 

If we had left all of this to the market, only 66% of Scotland would have received Superfast Broadband – only 21% of them in the Highlands and Islands. That was not good enough for us. With over £400 million worth of investment, your SNP Government has put in place the support to make sure, from our main Broadband programme, that 95% of Scotland will be connected to Superfast services.

But we won’t leave it at that. Digital connectivity is crucial to creating economic, social and educational opportunity in every part of Scotland no matter how remote. So this Government has established Community Broadband Scotland with the funding and the mission to connect those communities BT won’t reach.

This Government is determined that everyone in Scotland will have access to the digital age. Not for the sake of it. But to open up the economic, social and educational opportunities that every citizen of Scotland has a right to expect. Continue reading John Swinney’s Conference Speech

Regional List Rankings Published

The results of the ballot of members to decide the order in which its candidates should be ranked on the regional list in the Holyrood 2016 election was announced on 12 October 2014.

The list for Mid Scotland and Fife is shown below:

1.     John Swinney
2.     Annabelle Ewing
3.     Keith Brown
4.     Shirley-Anne Somerville
5.     David Torrance
6.     Alycia Hayes
7.     David Doogan
8.     Roderick Campbell
9.     Karen Marjoram
10.   Rosemary Hunter
11.   Maciej Wiczynski
12.   Neale Hanvey

Congratulations to all the candidates.

 

Dunfermline and West Fife Holyrood Candidate

Shirley-AnneOur SNP candidate for the Holyrood 2016 campaign – Shirley-Anne Somerville

Shirley-Anne is an experienced Holyrood parliamentarian having been an MSP from 2007 to 2011 and a Parliamentary Aide to John Swinney.   She is a proven leader in the Yes movement and the SNP.   She was the Director of Communications in the Yes movement responsible for the grass roots campaign and Deputy Chief Executive of the SNP overseeing major campaign projects and managing campaign staff.   She also worked closely with First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon during the Westminster campaign.

Her biography is available on snp.org.

Shirley-Anne stated at the hustings she would hit the ground running to kick off her campaign. She has done so. She has set up an appeal for funds via an online “raffle” with some relevant prizes, on Crowdfunder.      If you want her to have the best chance of winning then please show your support.

Support for our candidate

“Shirley-Anne has the experience, tenacity and passion to be, once again, a great asset to the SNP group in Holyrood.  Her record as an MSP speaks for itself and she made a considerable contribution both in the Parliament and for her constituents.”            Alex Salmond MP, MSP.

“Both in the chamber and campaigning in the community she made a real impact.   It would be great to have her back in the Parliament.”       Alex Neil MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice

“During her previous time as an MSP she impressed all her colleagues.   She has the leadership skills not only to be a great Candidate but just as importantly a fantastic MSP.”   Bruce Crawford MSP

Shirley-Anne says,  “Friends, let’s move our Party forward.  We must win well in our constituencies, but we must also run a strong and determined campaign to ensure we elect our list MSPs too.   I have the experience to win and the commitment to take us forward to our goal of independence. ”

 

Sturgeon tells MPs and MSPs: We have delivered – now make it clear to voters

NICOLA Sturgeon kicked off the SNP’s campaign for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections, claiming that despite cuts from Westminster, the Scottish Government had “delivered better services”.

In a wide-ranging speech at a joint meeting of the SNP’s MSPs and MPs in Edinburgh yesterday morning, the First Minister also made it clear that the party still had to build support for self-determination.Fm thumbs up

“Our school leavers do better than ever before,” Sturgeon said. “We have rebuilt or refurbished one fifth of all school buildings. Crime is at a 41-year low. We have higher employment than the rest of the UK. Youth employment is at its highest level in a decade. And NHS waiting times are among the lowest ever recorded.”

She continued: “We have abolished prescription charges, maintained free personal care for the elderly and restored free tuition for our students. We have made necessary, and radical, long-term reforms to police, to colleges, to health and social care services, and to our school curriculum.”

Next May, Sturgeon said, the SNP’s task “is to convince the people of this country that I will be the best First Minister, that we are the best team and that we have the best policies and the best vision to lead Scotland into the next decade.

“If we do that, we will not just win, we will win another majority. And let me be clear today: another majority government is our aim.’’

More.

Referendum Anniversary Speech

Address by SNP Leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon

Friday, 18th September 2015

image
“A year ago today, this country changed.

It may not have been the change we hoped for.

But Scotland did change. It changed for the better – and it changed for good.

The referendum campaign was, without doubt, the most exciting and exhilarating of our political lives.

It energised and enthused, educated and empowered.

It invited us – individually and collectively – to imagine the kind of country we wanted to live in.

It made us realise that the future isn’t set in stone – it is ours to shape and ours to build.

We discovered our voice – and found that as a nation we could make the world listen.

We surprised ourselves. We learned to trust our own instincts and experiences.

We discovered that hope really can be a more powerful emotion than fear.

We started to ask questions that the Westminster establishment, fighting for its own survival, found impossible to answer.

Like why is it necessary to make brutal cuts that impoverish our children when money for new nuclear weapons never seems to be any object?

And we realised, perhaps more clearly than ever before, that the answers to these questions are not inevitable. They are the result of political choices.

The question we all faced exactly one year ago today is who gets to make those choices? Whose voice carries most weight?

And now that we have a Tory government, with just one MP in Scotland, imposing deep cuts on working people, jeopardising our place in Europe and threatening to rip up hard won and long valued trade union and human rights, that question and those choices remain just as important today as they were a year ago.

As we woke up the morning after the referendum the country, inevitably, was divided between those of us who were utterly devastated and those who breathed a sigh of relief.

But there was a new and powerful mood in the air that morning – a mood that transcended the divisions of the campaign, to unite Yes and No voters in a common determination that our voice as a country would continue to be heard.

It was a mood and a moment that was spectacularly misjudged by David Cameron, as he stood on the steps of Downing Street and chose to make Scotland’s expression of self determination all about a Tory obsession with English votes for English laws.

As a somewhat tired and emotional nation watched an arrogant Prime Minister pronounce that it was time for Scotland to know her place again, the determination to make our voice heard more loudly than it had ever been before grew stronger.

The Westminster establishment had asked Scotland not to leave the UK, but to lead it and a majority of Scots had opted to accept the invitation.

Yes or No, we were not now going to be silent.

Friends,

Today, on the anniversary of the referendum and as we look forward to next May, people will inevitably ask about the possibility of another referendum.

As I have made clear, our manifesto will set out our position on a second independence referendum.

It will consider the circumstances in which it might be appropriate, sometime in the future, to propose such a referendum.

Let me be clear, this is a judgment that we will make carefully. And it is a judgment that will be driven, not by the interests of the SNP, but by the interests of the people of Scotland as a whole.

We respect last year’s result.

It would be wrong to propose another referendum without a fundamental change of circumstances or a strong indication that a significant number of those who voted No last year had changed their minds.

But it would also be wrong – in the face of a clear and material shift in circumstances or public opinion – for any one politician or party to rule out another referendum.

Because the key principle is democracy. Politicians can propose and campaign. But only the people can decide.

Only the people can decide if we will have another referendum.

Only the people can decide when that will be.

And only the people can decide if Scotland will become independent.

And for those of us who want Scotland to be independent, that is our challenge.

If we are to win independence, we must convince a majority of Scots that it represents the best future for Scotland.

That was true last year, it is true now and it will be true at all times in the future.

There are no shortcuts.

Independence won’t happen just because its supporters become more impatient for change.

An even more committed, enthusiastic and impatient 45% is still just 45%.

If Scotland is to become independent, we must build the support for independence.

Just as in the referendum campaign, it grew from 30% to 45%, we must in the years ahead take it from 45% to a clear majority.

That means we must persuade the people we failed to persuade last year.

That means understanding why they voted No. And it means addressing those concerns, patiently, carefully and comprehensively.

That is our challenge.

But there’s also a big challenge here for Westminster.

When people consider whether or not Scotland would be better off independent, they judge independence on its own merits, certainly – but they also weigh it against the alternative.

What does staying part of the Westminster system mean for Scotland?

Right now, what people see at Westminster is a Tory government failing to fully deliver on the vow it made on more powers for our parliament.

They see a Tory government continuing to impose austerity on working people and the disabled – way beyond anything required to reduce the deficit and in spite of Scotland electing 56 anti austerity MPs.

And they see a government arrogantly pressing ahead with plans to renew Trident – at a cost of £100 billion – before the House of Commons has even voted and while our public services suffer the pain of their cuts.

And it is all of that, more than anything, that explains what we now see happening in the polls.

In the last twelve months, there have been 24 polls on independence.

Every single one has shown support for independence higher than it was on this day last year – some have even put independence in the lead.

So, my message to David Cameron today is the same as it was when I met him just after the general election.

What happens to support for independence in the months and years to come will depend as much on what you do as it will on what we do.

And, right now, you are living on borrowed time.

If you continue to ignore Scotland’s voice, if you continue to disrespect the choice that people across this country made in May, more and more people will conclude that Westminster simply can’t deliver for Scotland.

So, it is your choice, Prime Minister – but know that Scotland is watching.

Friends,

As a party, we have learned many lessons from the referendum campaign and from all that has happened since

But there is no doubt that some of the hardest lessons from the last twelve months have been for Labour.

It is not my place to intrude on Labour’s internal problems. But the referendum has taught all parties in Scotland that the views of the people cannot be ignored.

I congratulate Jeremy Corbyn on his election, but as the new Labour leader he faces some early tests – not least to demonstrate that he can unite his party to take on and defeat the Tories.

I look forward to him working with us against continued austerity, in a way that his predecessor refused to do.

I hope he and his party will also work with us to oppose the renewal of Trident.

This week our parties stood together in the House of Commons in opposing draconian trade union legislation and the SNP will argue against that legislation across the whole of the UK every step of the way.

But, sadly, the Tories won that vote.

So at this crucial time I urge Labour’s new leader to show that his party will put the rights and protections of workers in Scotland before partisan opposition to further powers for our parliament.

When the Scotland Bill returns to the Commons the SNP will propose the devolution of powers over trade union and employment law.

Jeremy Corbyn must reverse Labour’s opposition to the devolution of powers, back our amendment and enable our parliament and this government to take a different approach.

The Scottish Parliament should not be left in the position of protesting in vain over the erosion of rights in Scotland. We must have the powers to prevent it.

Of course, one of the issues that may influence Scotland’s attitude to independence over the next couple of years is the looming referendum on the UK’s membership of the EU.

Last year we were promised our place in the EU was safe – but only if we voted No. How times change.

I have said before – and I repeat again today – that if Scotland was to find itself facing a EU exit that we hadn’t voted for, demand for a second independence referendum could well be unstoppable.

It would be a material change to the circumstances in which last year’s vote was taken.

For our part, we will be campaigning for the UK to remain within the EU.

I have listened to the Labour debate in recent days hoping to hear a similar, unequivocal commitment to the UK remaining part of the European Union. Thankfully, that now appears to have been given, though the uncertainty about it has caused concern.

It would be, in my view, an abdication of responsibility for Labour not to give its whole-hearted support to the campaign to remain in the EU.

And it would be a rejection of the social and economic benefits the EU has helped to secure.

The EU is not perfect, but it has made a huge contribution to protecting and enhancing employees’ rights – from working time regulations and parental leave to sickness pay and health and safety rules.

We must defend these hard won rights from within the EU rather than leave David Cameron with the unfettered ability to erode them.

So I say to Labour today – no more equivocation. Put the issue beyond any doubt and commit to campaigning in all circumstances to stay in the European Union.

Friends

There is a new mood in Scotland – the evidence of that new mood is sitting here in this room and can be felt in every part of our country.

In the hours, days and weeks following the referendum, our party membership surged.

At 5pm a year ago today, we had 25,642 members.

Today, our membership stands at 112, 208.

And then, of course, that surge in membership became an SNP landslide in the general election.

56 SNP MPs – joining our 64 MSPs – now form the biggest combined parliamentary group of any party in Scotland in the devolution era.

A party that was seen to have confidence in Scotland now enjoys the confidence of an unprecedented number of Scots – including many who voted No.

That is our achievement and we should be proud of it.

But it is also our responsibility.

That responsibility is to lead Scotland forward – confidently, progressively and as one country.

That is the job of me as First Minister and of our Scottish Government, each and every day.

And it is the task of all of us as we seek to win the Scottish election next May.

The Scottish Parliament election is 230 days away.

Today, I am firing the starting gun on our campaign.

I have asked John Swinney, the Deputy First Minister to be campaign director.

Our deputy leader, Stewart Hosie, will oversee the development of our manifesto – a manifesto that will set out, not just policies for the next parliament, but a vision for this country for the next decade and beyond.

I have also asked our youngest MP, the talented and inspirational Mhairi Black, to spearhead our youth campaign.

Next May will be the first ever opportunity for 16 and 17 year olds to vote in a national election.

The participation of our young people in the referendum last year was one of its resounding successes.

And I am determined that the views and priorities of our young people – of Scotland’s next generation – will be at the very heart of this election.

Friends,

We go into this contest with record approval ratings in the polls.

But we will take nothing for granted.

We will campaign harder than we have ever done to win – again – the trust of the people.

We will stand proudly on our record.

Over the past eight years, while Westminster has cut our budget, we have delivered better services.

Our school leavers do better than ever before.

We have rebuilt or refurbished one fifth of all school buildings.

Crime is at a 41 year low.

We have higher employment than the rest of the UK. Youth employment is at its highest level in a decade.

And NHS waiting times are among the lowest ever recorded.

We have abolished prescription charges, maintained free personal care for the elderly and restored free tuition for our students.

We have made necessary, and radical, long-term reforms to police, to colleges, to health and social care services, and to our school curriculum.

The foundations are strong. Our manifesto will set out how we will build on them.

It will set out how we will address the challenges of the future.

And it will put before the people of this country a truly progressive policy programme to support our economy, create a fairer society and improve our public services.

Friends,

Let us understand the significance of what we are now seeking to achieve.

Next May, I will have the privilege of asking the people of Scotland, for the first time, to elect me as First Minister.

And we, collectively, will be seeking a historic third term in office.

We will do so with humility, but with a determination to win.

My task – our task – is to convince the people of this country that I will be the best First Minister, that we are the best team, and that we have the best policies and the best vision to lead Scotland into the next decade.

And, if we do that, we will not just win. We will win another majority.

And let me be clear today. That is our aim.

Friends,

What I have seen in the last twelve months in every corner of this country has been truly inspirational.

We are a country energised and empowered.

There has never been a more exciting time to lead this country.

And if we can win Scotland’s trust again – as I am determined we will – we will lead it forward with pride, with confidence and with an unshakeable belief in the people we serve.

Let’s get on and do it.”