We live in challenging times – the events of recent months make this the most unpredictable political climate in a generation or more.
Brexit looms large over everything. Tomorrow, the Prime Minister will give more detail about her negotiating stance once Article 50 is triggered.
While everyone wants to hear more from Theresa May than the meaningless “Brexit means Brexit” soundbite, the hints in yesterday’s media about what she might say are worrying.
It seems the Tories really are prepared to drive the UK off a hard Brexit cliff edge. Instead of staying in the single market – the most sensible compromise option – they want to turn the UK into a low-tax, deregulated economy.
Make no mistake, such an approach will threaten hard-won workers’ rights. It would be a damaging race to the bottom, leaving everyone – perhaps apart from the very wealthiest – worse off.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Scottish Government have already published a detailed plan to allow us to stay in the single market – which is vital for jobs and the economy – even if the rest of the UK leaves.
The PM has pledged to give our plan her full consideration, and I intend to hold her to that. As we survey this extraordinary political landscape, I’m reminded in some ways of the 80s when, as a teenager growing up in Ayrshire, I first became involved in politics.
Then, as now, we had a Tory Government who Scotland didn’t vote for, doing untold damage to our economy and society.
The current crop of Westminster Tories now seem to think they can do whatever they want to Scotland and people here will just sit back and accept it – they may be about to find out just how wrong they are about that.
Brexit will dominate debate for a long time to come but I am determined to stay focused on the big challenges we face on the home front as well.
Education, health, our rural communities, the environment, providing support to our business sector and a whole host of other issues keep the in-trays of me and my ministerial team full.
These bread and butter issues keep us busy day in, day out. On all these issues, I know that as First Minister, the buck stops with me, and that’s the way it should be.
And while there are serious challenges in education, health and beyond – not just in Scotland but across the globe – that shouldn’t blind us to our many success stories.
Yes, we want to make our NHS even better – but our doctors and nurses do a fabulous job and are delivering some of the best healthcare anywhere in the UK.
On education, I’ve made it my mission to drive up standards and close the attainment gap between kids from richer and poorer areas – but we already have record exam passes and more youngsters from all backgrounds going to university.
Sometimes we are too reluctant as a nation to celebrate all that is good about Scotland. We have so much going for us. We have assets other countries would give their eye teeth for – it’s up to us to make the best of it. That’s what I seek to do each and every day as First Minister – and I’m excited to be sharing it with you on these pages.
This article originally appeared in the Daily Record.