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Douglas Ross speech on the First Minister vote

“It seems pretty likely that the leader of the largest minority party in the Parliament, with the help of the fourth-largest minority party, will be successful in this afternoon’s election.”

Not my words, but those of John Swinney when he was last SNP leader and seeking this Parliament’s support to make him First Minister.

That was 21 years ago, in May 2003.

Today, Presiding Officer, I am putting my name forward for a third time to be First Minister because it is past time that Scotland had a national leader focused on the issues that really matter – not another nationalist leader focused on the narrow political interests of the SNP.

When this Parliament was elected almost exactly three years ago, Scotland was still in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.

At that time, we all promised to the Scottish people that we would put normal politics aside and focus on the national interest.

Yet before all the votes were even counted the SNP had reverted to type – claiming that the election was a mandate for independence.

And that has set the tone for this session – gone was the opportunity to deliver transformative change for the people we serve.

Instead, we have we now seen three SNP leaders saying that independence was their priority and using this chamber and the Scottish Government as vehicles to campaign for it.

It is clear that Scotland needs fresh leadership focused on the national interest, but the SNP have responded to calls for change by replacing one continuity candidate with another.

By going backwards instead of forwards.

This proves the SNP can’t change – that they will be the same distracted nationalist government, run by the same people, that we’ve seen for the last 17 years.

We need to get back to the priorities of the Scottish people – and that’s the platform on which I, and the Scottish Conservatives, are proud to stand.

We’re standing today to represent the people's priorities against an SNP Government that only ever puts independence first.

We believe Scotland can succeed now. The SNP think we can only succeed in some fantasy future.

We think the focus should be on the country’s big challenges, not the SNP’s obsession with independence.

We want investment to improve schools, not the SNP’s plan to spend more money on papers promoting separation.

We believe that our NHS should be focused on clearing patient treatment backlogs, not on pushing the SNP’s dangerous gender ideology on kids.

We want free speech, not the SNP's Hate Crime Act.

We want to upgrade key roads and fix potholes, not penalise drivers with an SNP workplace parking tax.

We want to support 100,000 workers who depend on the North Sea oil and gas, while the SNP want to shut that industry down.

We are standing up for rural Scotland, while the SNP continue to pursue a centralisation agenda.

We would protect local services and our councils, while the SNP are stripping them of powers and funding.

We want to make Scotland competitive within the UK, not punish families and businesses with SNP taxes.

We want the country to unite for a stronger economy, not John Swinney's slogan to unite for independence.

I am not expecting to be elected as First Minister today.

We already know that the SNP have done a backroom deal with the Greens to ensure that they abstain on the vote so that John Swinney will win.

But beyond this chamber, the Scottish people are watching and the appeal that I am making today is to them.

Because later this year we will have a General Election.

And in that election Scottish Conservative candidates will be standing across the country to beat the SNP and end the obsession with independence for good.

We can see John Swinney off, just like we saw off Humza Yousaf, and get the focus back onto the issues that really matter. If voters come together behind us, the Scottish Conservatives, in key seats right across Scotland.