Presiding Officer, colleagues, guests - this speech sets out the Government's vision for the next five years.
John Steinbeck famously referred to Scotland as an 'unwon cause' - it's a nice phrase, and in my younger days I imagined that to prove him wrong, all we had to do was to become Independent.
But every society is an 'unwon cause' - the struggle for fairness, equality, tolerance, rights of free speech and thought - these are struggles which are never won - they require constant vigilance and courage.
But that doesn't mean the cause should not be fought, and the values are not worth the fight - it is the quality of our society that is my cause.
History shows that a truly equal, fair and kind society is built on good education and good health - it values happiness higher than money, and sees people share a bond to each other, connecting them not just from house to house or community to community but across the world.
For the next five years, we shall champion the unwon.
Devolution was born for a purpose - to let Scotland find peace with herself, for our nation to become comfortable in her own skin.
Yet much of what was held up as a problem needing a solution in 1999 stays that way - a problem.
Over the last twelve years we have done much work. But not enough.
I believe the resounding vote of confidence in this government is because the people want more. They want real powers for real change.
The people of Scotland's desire for their Parliament to have economic powers is not academic - it is no small thing - it is at the very core of our future.
Elsewhere on these isles, the tolerance of the poor is being tested - budgets slashed, priorities changed, hope crushed in the braying tones of people who claim to know best.
We should aspire to be different.
In Scotland the poor won't be made to pick up the bill for the rich.
When we control our natural assets as a sovereign power, the profit from the land shall go to all.
Too many of them have been ill-served by the union as is currently stands.
There is a better way.
Scotland should have control of her destiny.
What we choose to do with that control - the alliances we may forge, the bonds we make, the interests shared - are ours and ours alone to determine.
That is what independence means.
We are not rushing this journey, but don't let our steady pace fool anyone into thinking we are not determined - we shall keep travelling, and so get ever closer to home.
In that journey, it is important that we have a Scotland Bill worthy of the name.
As such, it is too important to be left to Westminister.
That is why we shall convene a Scotland Bill Committee, so the voice of Scotland's Parliament can he heard.
There is consensus across parties and across time for changes - and we shall ensure that the Bill incorporates them.
So we will ensure that the Crown Estate comes under the control of this Parliament so Scotland's communities can share the vast offshore wealth of our nation.
We shall see that we have borrowing powers appropriate to our size and ambition, with the prize not the power, but more jobs and the chance to protect our recovery.
We shall demand that corporation tax be devolved, the logic of that is irresistible.
If Northern Ireland is fit to control its own corporation tax rate, then so are we.
If the Business Secretary says the logic of our case is solid, then who am I to argue with Vince Cable.
He is a Liberal Democrat who has seen that the path to redemption out of the shame of the coalition is to claim traditional liberal values - so naturally he finds himself in agreement with a Scotland that wants more powers.
We need control of excise duties so that we can tackle the problems of alcohol abuse and benefit the public purse.
Many of our leading cultural figures have backed this Parliament's call for a Scottish Digital Channel, and we need regulatory influence in broadcasting to take that forward.
And of course our key industries would benefit from more influence over European policy.
The age of benign dictat is over.
This Parliament is not a lobby group, begging Westminster for what is already ours.
This Parliament speaks for the people of Scotland and they shall be heard.
Having a majority gives this Government more scope, certainly.
But we must still act within the restricted powers of this Parliament.
That doesn't confine our ambitions for Scotland but it does confine our ability to achieve those ambitions.
And that is why constitutional issues are a priority for both this Government and Parliament in the short term and the medium term.
In the short term, the immediate priority is to convert the current Scotland Bill into a worthy successor to Donald Dewar's original, so that each member of this Parliament can honestly say of the new Bill, as he said of the previous Bill: "I like that!"
That is why, as we promised to the Scottish electorate, our referendum on moving towards independence and full financial responsibility should be well into the second half of this Parliamentary session.
Now constitutional change is not an end in itself but a means to a better nation.
The SNP are sometimes characterised by others as a 'constitution' party - in fact we are not. Constitutional progress is only part of our ambition for our nation.
My passion is not to cross some imaginary constitutional finishing line at some point in the future, and think - the race is won.
Because the challenge that drives me is not the constitution, but the people.
My aim is now, has been in the past, and always will be: to deliver a better society for the people of Scotland.
It happens that we need full powers to do this but the people come before the powers, the community before the constitution, the children before the state.
Today, I want to talk about the quality of the Scotland we aspire to.
To three elements that each speak to who we are and how we will govern.
First, the economics of security.
Already within the Scottish Government we have secured a no compulsory redundancy deal covering 30,000 workers in Government and agencies. Our commitment is to seek to extend this first to the 160,000 workers in our NHS. Before working to ensure no compulsory redundancies across the public sector.
Will this be easy? No. But is it important? Without doubt.
It is an essential part of our economic recovery.
With security of employment, comes the confidence to invest, to build and to spend.
And the benefits of that confidence will be seen in the corner shop, in our High Streets and in our housing market.
It is one crucial way this government can and will nurture economic recovery and growth here in Scotland.
And second, our social wage.
This is the pact, the promise, between politicians, public services and the people.
We shall deliver the social and economic circumstances that allow for people to dream, to aspire and to be ambitious - but it is for the individual to realise their dreams, to reach for their hopes, to meet their ambitions.
The General Assembly of the Church of Scotland has been in session this week - 23 years ago it heard from a UK Prime Minister - the speech she gave sounded to this nation like fingernails being dragged across a blackboard.
Mrs Thatcher's address became notorious as the 'Sermon on the Mound'.
Well I say to her political heirs and successors.
There is such a thing as society, and we will protect it.
We are united in the effort to build a better nation - we are not individuals alone in a cold world, but a community united to protect all our people.
And the steps this parliament has already taken, the free personal care, the abolition of tuition fees, the scrapping of tolls and the delivery of free prescriptions are our side of the bargain.
As are the next steps, including the freezing of the Council Tax until the end of this Parliament.
We know the pressures on family budgets. We know that these tough times are forcing difficult decisions in homes the length and breadth of our nation.
Many people have accepted a wage freeze.
People understand that public spending must be restrained.
And in return we will stand alongside the family in Dumfries that wants to send their daughter to university.
We will support the commuter in Dunfermline who travels daily across the Forth or the family in Ayrshire who would otherwise have to choose which medicine they can afford this month.
And we will protect the pensioner in Inverness who lives off her savings and fears ever-rising prices and bills.
Free university education, no tolls, no tax on ill health, and one bill, the Council Tax, that will not soar.
This is the social wage.
For the sacrifices we must all make, there is a reward in the form of a society geared to our values.
We do things differently here - not because we can, but because we want to.
For Scotland's patients, our commitment to protecting the health budget is all about delivering the better and faster treatment we know they seek.
For victims in our society, we will take forward the necessary reforms to improve their rights and give them their proper place at the heart of our justice system.
For our unpaid carers, men and women, young and old, who give so much of their lives to look after the people they love, we will work to ensure they are true partners in the delivery of care and their special role is fully recognised.
For job-seekers, students, pupils and their parents, our commitment is clear.
We will create opportunity.
We will work to build the conditions here in Scotland where you and yours can flourish.
These and others will be the living embodiment of our social contract, of the new partnership between the government and the people of our nation.
And that is the society we will build and we will protect: the guarantee that neither the market, nor barbaric budget cuts, nor crazed ideology will tear us apart.
There is such a thing as society - is ours to defend - and ours to celebrate.
And third our fund for the future.
During the election campaign we set out plans for a Scottish Futures Fund. A Fund designed to tackle head-on some of the endemic problems in our society, and more than that a Fund with a core purpose to create new opportunities across Scottish society.
Some in this Chamber told us to use PFI to build the Forth Bridge. If we had listened there could be no Scottish Futures Fund.
Some said we should scrap the Scottish Futures Trust, but without their expertise and the efforts of Transport Scotland, we would not have the prospect of a £250 million saving on the cost of the Forth Replacement Crossing.
The Scottish Futures Fund will stand as a testament to good government. To sound financial management. And just as the Forth Replacement Crossing is a bridge to jobs, growth and economic security, so our Scottish Futures Fund will be a bridge to a better and fairer future.
And within this £250 million fund five separate initiatives each with the potential to reshape our nation.
A Youth Talent Fund to draw out and encourage the very best of talent in all parts of our country. Helping to create the next generation of sportsmen and women, the artists, the playwrights, the performers who will thrill us and entertain us in years to come. And more than that, changing for good and for ever the life path of thousands of young Scots.
A Warm Homes Fund, which will deliver warm homes for thousands of Scots in our most fuel poor communities, but will do more. It will provide these communities with their own renewable generation - and from that clean green energy an income that the communities themselves will control. Tackling, for once, not just the symptoms of poverty but also the causes.
Investment that will prepare our nation to meet the challenges of the future. A Future Transport Fund that will enable us to make the necessary transition to more sustainable travel. The Next Generation Digital Fund, opening up Scotland to the potential of the digital revolution. And our Sure Start Fund, that has at its heart the determination to transform the life chances of thousands of newborn Scots.
Our vision is of a nation that is fair and just, a nation that is fertile for ambition and talent. Where the deepest challenges we face are first acknowledged and then tackled head on.
The Scottish Futures Fund creates the opportunity to make a difference for families and individuals in all parts of Scotland. It will be a defining initiative of this government, and an initiative that begins to change our nation for good.
If we invest in each other, then we invest in ourselves, and we will build a secure society.
A place of equality, fairness and justice.
And this will be our offer to the world:
- live here, because the life is good
- work here, because the people are well-educated and ambitious
- visit here, because it has a beauty which radiates from the land and the people
- invest here, because it is productive and ambitious
We shall collectively deliver a better quality of society, leaving room for the individual to flourish on these solid Scottish foundations.
And, crucially, leaving no one behind.
Part of this social wage is that we should work towards a safer society.
In the age of Twitter and texts, the dreams of a free-speaking world are contaminated by viral strains of bitterness.
Technology has given fresh energy to old hatreds and pustulant sectarianism again seeps across our land.
Well, it will be stopped: I will not have people living in fear from some idiotic 17th Century rivalry in the 21st century.
And I will not have Scotland torn apart by the memory of battles that no-one alive fought in, and by confected rivalry between faiths that long ago united in the ecumenical movement.
We are all children of the past, but we are capable of growing up and saying - not here, no more.
Sectarianism must stop, and it will: not because it is embarrassing to our national image - though it is.
Nor that it is embarrassing to ourselves - though it is that too.
But because it is a pointless cause pursued by the pitiless.
Such hatred - of the self, of others and of our society - shall end.
And it travels, at least in part, hand-in-hand with another scourge of our safety and happiness - the booze culture.
I think that we have confused our appetite for fun with a hunger for self-destruction.
We tolerate a race to the bottom of the bottle, which ruins our health, our judgement, our relationships, our safety and our dignity.
For at the core of our approach is the idea that there is:
- a dignity in being human
- a duty to behave with respect to each other, and to ourselves; and
- merit in grace and kindness which far outweighs careers and profit
The drink robs us of our personal and collective dignity.
It makes infants of the wise, and victims of the young.
Thus early legislation in this parliament shall address both bigotry and booze.
Across this chamber we know these are issues Scotland must tackle, but they are not the only priorities that we must address in these first weeks and months of our new parliament.
Jobs and growth, the pressures on our budgets, finding new and better ways of delivering the public services the people of Scotland expect and deserve. These too must be at the forefront of our minds and our actions.
This summer the Christie Commission will report on ways to reform our public services.
I don't wish to pre-judge that process - but let me focus on one area of reform, and of how we can create and protect jobs, deliver a stable, safe society while also doing things in a new, better way.
An area where we have shown what is possible with fresh thinking.
Where creativity and ingenuity means we are getting more for less.
Building a better nation means investing in housing, improving the living standards for those currently living in unacceptable conditions.
A child living in an overcrowded house will not realise his or her full potential.
The health of a pensioner living in a damp house will suffer.
Investment in housing is essential to promote economic growth.
We will therefore bring forward new proposals to improve the quality and quantity of housing in Scotland.
The people of Scotland deserve to live in homes fit for the 21st Century and this Government is committed to that goal. A goal which is essential if we are to achieve our vision of a better nation for all.
Driving forward this vision is a commitment to boosting our economy.
A jobs agenda will be at the very heart of our programme for government.
Our own actions in the public sector will do all we can to support employment - but ultimately, it is the private sector which is the key driver of job creation in a country.
Our ability to support jobs creation will only succeed if our workforce has the relevant skills and training necessary to succeed.
We have tailored our support to accommodate the different requirements of individual across the labour market spectrum, from new entrants, people returning back into the employment or retraining for a new career or upskilling within existing employment.
This focus will continue in support of employment.
We will also continue in our efforts, through Scottish Development International and the Enterprise Agencies, to make Scotland an attractive place for investment.
The Chamber will have seen the survey from Ernst and Young yesterday which shows that this nation leads these islands in inward investment projects. What is even more important is that we lead in re-investment from the world's greatest companies in the future of Scotland.
In recent months, we have seen welcome and valuable investments from leading global companies including over 3,000 jobs announced by Amazon this year.
Mitsubishi Power Systems, Ryanair, Gamesa and Doosan - these and others have been secured.
This is good news for our economy, but it can only be the start.
There is a world of opportunity for Scotland's job-creators, for our entrepreneurs and businesses.
And our economic strategy will position our nation to make the most of our natural and comparative advantages.
To use the skills of our people and the depth of our research to create a decade of growing prosperity.
Our ambition is a Scotland that flourishes. A Scotland that is open for business, where success is rewarded and nurtured and where opportunities are seized with both hands.
Our approach will mean a renewed focus on our growth companies, our growth sectors and growth markets.
In growth markets, we will prioritise the internationalisation of Scotland's economy, bringing new wealth and generating the high-quality, well-paid jobs that are an essential requirement for success in this 21st century.
As a dynamic, flexible, modern economy, external trade, investment and the flow of knowledge and skills are crucial to our future.
A legacy of the recession has been the creation of new opportunities for Scotland, particularly in emerging markets.
There are 2.5 billion people in the fast-growing economies of India and China alone. Consumers who will look to the best Scotland can offer. It is a market that today is in many ways untapped, but in the future can be a cornerstone of our nation's prosperity.
Internationalisation provides opportunities for all parts of our economy, whether it is in tourism & events, the export of specialised services such as oil and gas expertise, education, financial management or the array of manufactured products that we export from Scotland.
Building on these strengths and our overseas support networks we have set ambitious targets for export growth for the economy. And to match this ambition, we will deliver greater support for growth companies big and small who wish to sell their goods to the world.
A vibrant and growing export sector, with existing exporters expanding their share and new entrants discovering new markets.
This is a time of challenge but also a time of opportunity.
We know of our great comparative advantage in natural resources and the opportunities that exist in transforming to a Low Carbon Economy.
In renewable energy we have just one of many growth sectors. And through our renewable wealth we can and we will re-industrialise our nation as we research, develop, export, engineer, fabricate, install and then service the new energy systems that will power this century.
This is a strategy that will take our nation forward to recovery.
An approach that will create the wealth and the jobs.
This is a Government with ambition for Scotland.
A Government that presses for new powers and responsibilities, not for their own sake, but as a means to achieve a nation of aspiration and achievement.
A Government that seeks to work with all parties in this Parliament and all the people in this nation to create the Scotland that we all wish to see. The nation we all know Scotland can be.
A Government that wants to build the foundations for success, from this day forward, for future generations to enjoy: built on a clear Scottish vision of a fair society, a promise between politicians and the people that together, we will make Scotland better.