Parliament elects First Minister
The Scottish Parliament today elected Alex Salmond, MSP for Gordon, as First Minister to lead the Executive for the next four years.
Mr Salmond will receive the Royal Warrant from the Queen before taking the official oath of allegiance in front of a panel of judges at the Court of Session in Edinburgh tomorrow to confirm him as FM and Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland.
Mr Salmond is leader of the Scottish National Party, the largest single party in the Parliament with 47 MSPs, which is to form a minority government following the outcome of the May 3 election.
After his election, Mr Salmond said:
"Presiding Officer, I thank you for your best wishes. I will address, in turn, the party leaders who have spoken.
"I thank Annabel Goldie for her congratulations. People in the chamber will not know that I recently toasted Annabel at the scouts and guides Burns supper in the great city of Glasgow. Such was the excellence of her reply to the toast to the lassies that night, I was sorely tempted to vote for her today-tempted, but not seduced.
"As Annabel pointed out, my wife Moira and my wee sister Gail are in the gallery today-I say to Annabel that it is a good job that my big sister is no here-and I thank them and the rest of my family for their support. My dad is also here. My father has never seen me in a parliamentary chamber, because he has always refused to set foot in the Palace of Westminster. Some people say that I should have heeded his advice.
"I thank Nicol Stephen for a typically gracious speech and his congratulations. Earlier, he listed all the policies in which the Liberal Democrats believe. I am not sure that the Government can afford all his manifesto commitments, but we will certainly try our best.
"Lastly, I thank Jack McConnell for his good wishes. He once said that the job of a First Minister was to leave Scotland better than they found it. With the ban on smoking and the campaign against sectarianism in society, he has certainly done that. I applaud his efforts in those directions and I hope to continue them. I thank him very much and wish him and Bridget every good wish for the future.
"As we should remember, the Parliament was created by the people of Scotland in a referendum. It is bigger than any of its members or any party. I believe that Scotland is ready for change and ready for reform. We are a small nation, but we have a big future. We also face some big challenges.
"Earlier on, it was said that Scotland is a divided nation. Given the closeness of the election result, I understand why people might feel that way. However, it is not the case; we are not divided. Certainly the gap between rich and poor is far too great; we need to grow the economy faster; we need to heal the scars of the past; we need to be greener; and we need to be smarter still-but we are not divided. We have a sense of ourselves, a sense of community and, above all, a sense of the commonweal of Scotland.
"In some ways, we are not even a divided Parliament. Of course, those in this part of the chamber seek independence and equality for Scotland. I am told that not everyone in the chamber agrees with that policy, although some members do. However, there is a broad consensus for the Parliament to assume greater responsibility for the governance of Scotland, as well as an understanding that we are engaged in a process of self-government and an awareness of the distance that we have already travelled.
"In 1961, Bashir Ahmad came to Glasgow to drive buses. In 1961, the very idea of a Scottish Parliament was unimaginable. In 1961, the idea of a Scots Asian sitting in a Scots Parliament was doubly unimaginable, but Bashir is here and we are here. That part of the community of Scotland is now woven into the Parliament's tartan and we are much stronger as a result. We are therefore diverse, not divided.
"The nature and the composition of the Scottish Parliament in its third session make it imperative for this Government to rely on the strength of argument in the Parliament rather than on the argument of parliamentary strength. Despite all the challenges that that will mean, I welcome the chance to develop a new and fundamentally more reflective model of democracy in Scotland.
"The days since the election have been dominated by questions about the structure of the Government. Will there be a coalition or will there be a minority Government? I say to the whole Parliament that the structure of the Government matters less to the people whom we represent than what all of us achieve on their behalf.
"All of us in the Parliament have a responsibility to conduct ourselves in a way that respects the Parliament that the people have chosen to elect. That will take patience, maturity and leadership on all sides of the chamber. My pledge to the Parliament today is that any Scottish Government that is led by me will respect and include the Parliament in the governance of Scotland over the next four years.
"In this century, there are limits to what Governments can achieve, but one thing that any Government that I lead will never lack is ambition for Scotland. Today I commit myself to leadership wholly and exclusively in the Scottish national interest. We will appeal for support across the chamber policy by policy. That is the Parliament that the people of Scotland have elected and that is the Government that I will be proud to lead."
There were two rounds of voting in the Parliament today. In the first round the votes cast were:
- Annabel Goldie 16
- Jack McConnell 46
- Alex Salmond 49
- Nicol Stephen 16
- Abstentions recorded 1
Ms Goldie and Mr Stephen were excluded and in the second round the votes cast were:
- Jack McConnell 46
- Alex Salmond 49
- Abstentions recorded 33
Presiding Officer Alex Fergusson said:
"I declare that Alex Salmond is elected as the Parliament's nominee for First Minister."