One year ago, as I was honoured to accept the nomination from the Scottish Parliament to be First Minister. I said that day that my job was to be a First Minister for all of Scotland, regardless of politics or point of view, and I have held to that promise.
Twelve months on, I am proud to reflect on a track record in government that has helped a huge range of people across the country.
Some of the Scottish Government’s achievements over the last 12 months include:
- Set up a £100 million attainment challenge to close the attainment gap in areas with the highest levels of deprivation.
- The launch of a National Improvement Framework to drive improvement in our schools and provide clear and consistent information to judge progress.
- Extended eligibility for Educational Maintenance allowances to help more young people stay on in education
- Increased bursaries for students from low income backgrounds.
- An expansion of 600 hours funded early learning and childcare to two year olds from low-income households. This means 20,000 two-year-olds are now eligible.
- Announcement that funding for free nursery places delivering early learning and childcare would double over the term of the next parliament – from £439m this year to around £880m.
- An expansion of accredited living wage employers from just 34 to more than 380 today.
- 81 per cent of the Scottish workforce are now paid at least the living wage – the highest proportion in the UK.
- A re-focused Economic Strategy prioritising investment, innovation, internationalisation and inclusive growth.
- Introduced a business pledge to help make Scotland fairer by supporting sustainable growth while promoting the living wage, workforce engagement and gender balance. More than 150 businesses have now signed the pledge.
- Launched the Partnership for Change that sees organisations commit to working towards 50/50 gender balance on their boards by 2020. More than 150 organisations and businesses have now signed up.
- Lowered the threshold for public authorities to publish their pay scales to those with 20 employees or more.
- Implemented record funding to tackle violence against women, with more than £30m to speed up the court process, give more support to victims, and expand schemes to help offenders change behaviour and reduce reoffending.
- Announced a roll-out of the innovative Clare’s Law scheme that allows people to check whether their partner has a violent past.
- Increase in NHS workforce of 1500.
- A new £60 million fund to drive the transformation of primary care and continued progress on integrating health and social care.
- Set out plans to develop five new elective treatments centres.
The last year has been one of delivery and achievement – but there is still much to do.
I am just getting started. The work that has been delivered is an excellent base to build on, but it is only the beginning and a strong foundation on which to deliver further progress for the people of Scotland.