Presiding Officer, everywhere today, men and women, many of them young, yearn to be productive. They are ready to work, because, very often, a life of unemployment is no life at all.
Political leaders owe it to these young people, to create the conditions that encourage growth. With growth comes work. With work comes security and confidence. With confidence comes prosperity and a deeper sense of well being, not just for individuals and families, but the wider community. This is how we create the Good Society, The Fair Society and it is at the heart of the Programme for Government I outline today.
Recent events in Europe and the United States have highlighted the fragility of the global recovery. Indeed some are even suggesting that another cauld blast of recession threatens the world economy. While I do believe we can continue to grow, the very fact that the double dip is at the door is in part due to the mistakes of those who have choked recovery with their obsession with early deficit reduction rather than growth. The fact is that failure to grow leads to failure in reducing deficits.
Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Laureate and former World Bank Chief Economist, said in January of this year that the gravest threat to recovery came from the wave of austerity sweeping the world, and particularly in Europe.
He will take no pleasure that this prophecy is coming to pass. But there is still time to take his advice, and tackle the vicious, downward spiral of debt and depression. Market pressure is often cited to vindicate irresponsible cuts. But if the markets hate one thing more than debt, it is lack of growth. Failure to grow means we will never break out of the debt spiral. That is why we have argued consistently against the deep cuts in capital spending being imposed by Westminster.
Professor Stiglitz says we can stimulate growth and employment in the long term with a large-scale public-investment programme right now.
This government agrees with him and has tried to do that despite the refusal of London to recognise the views clearly expressed by the people of Scotland in May and give us the tools we need.
Here in Scotland, we want the kind of economic levers that allow us to fully implement Professor Stiglitz's advice. We have argued strongly against the Coalition's plans to cut our capital investment by nearly 40 per cent in real terms. It is economically illiterate and endangers recovery.
This Parliament has heard the voice of the people and already backed our calls for improvements to the Scotland Bill that will transfer the job-creating powers we need to this chamber. It is now time for the UK government to hear and to act.
But waiting for London to show humility and recognise our democratic mandate is not enough to deal with the urgent need to boost growth.
Using the powers we do have, we took action through our Economic Recovery Plan that meant a recession in Scotland that was shorter and shallower than for the UK as a whole. Scottish unemployment is also lower than in the UK, while employment is higher.
We cannot allow decisions made elsewhere to threaten that progress. That is why this Programme for Government will again focus on ways we can stimulate growth.
This objective will also be central to plans that ministers will place before this chamber in the coming weeks.
John Swinney will publish a New Government Economic Strategy, followed by the Spending Review 2011, allocating the Scottish budget. There is no better articulation of our competence in Government than John Swinney's record in managing the public finances.
Our first priority in that new plan is promoting capital investment in the economy.
Our previous decision to accelerate capital spending was a considerable success, with growth in construction jobs of 11.6 per cent over the year to the first quarter of 2011 compared to a fall in the UK as a whole.
At the end of June, we opened the M74 - set to generate as many as 20,000 jobs for our economy over the years ahead - ahead of schedule and some £15 million to £20 million pounds under budget.
- We will deliver key infrastructure projects, such as the Glasgow South Hospitals Project and the Forth Replacement Crossing -which will, on its own, support 3,000 jobs
- We will take forward a new housing investment programme, which is starting with our £400 million housing investment budget for this year which is estimated to support over 15,000 jobs across the country; and,
- We will support additional investment through alternative funding streams such as our £2.5bn Non-Profit-Distributing programme and use of Tax Incremental Financing
But infrastructure is about more than bricks and mortar. We are aware of the disappointment that followed the UK government's announcement of broadband funding that took far too little account of Scotland's greater geographical area, and the very poor connectivity in many of our rural areas.
To this end we will launch the Next Generation Digital Fund to help business activity, particularly in these rural areas.
The second way to assist the economic recovery is to improve access to finance.
We have a blockage at the moment with many large companies holding significant amounts of capital but many of our smaller - and most dynamic companies - constrained by an inability to secure affordable finance from the banks.
To address this we established The Scottish Investment Bank (SIB) which is now open and lending to Scottish companies. Yesterday, I announced an investment in AccuNostics, a lifesciences business seeking to grow internationally from its base in Forres and creating much-needed, well paid and highly skilled jobs in that community.
However, the SIB cannot take the place of bank lending as the total resource available to it is some £200 million compared to Scotland's share of Project Merlin lending for small and medium sized businesses of £6.5 billion. So we continue to press the banks and the UK Government to improve the supply of finance.
We must also release the wall of private sector capital which is currently being held back by the lack of investment opportunity.
One key area, where there is significant scope to leverage such investment, is in offshore renewables, where we have a unique opportunity to re-industrialise our country. Scotland has around a quarter of Europe's offshore wind and tidal energy potential and an estimated 10 per cent of the wave power capacity.
Our £70 million National Renewables Infrastructure Fund will leverage private sector investment to support offshore renewables and ensure that Scotland becomes Europe's green energy powerhouse and thousands of jobs will be the result in communities around Scotland.
Thirdly, we must restore confidence among both businesses and consumers.
Our policy of no compulsory redundancies for staff for whom we have direct responsibility has helped provide economic confidence; If people are more secure, they spend money. It boosts demand right across the economy.
We will continue to deliver the most competitive business tax policy in the UK - including the small business bonus scheme which has removed or reduced the rates burden for tens of thousands of business properties.
Our social wage serves a similar purpose. Free education, free prescriptions, free concessionary travel and frozen Council Tax bills and water bills have helped to maintain demand by offsetting, at least in part, a work wage that is often reducing in real terms.
We still need the UK to show the same kind of initiative and come forward with a Plan B for boosting business growth. However, the Scottish Government will not wait for the UK to show initiative - that would be a hazardous policy and indeed a long wait.
A Jobs Agenda is at the very heart of our programme for government.
We are committed to doing everything in our powers to reduce youth unemployment which has fallen by 2,000 in the last year - it has fallen but remains far, far too high.
We have responded with a range of initiatives, including providing almost 300,000 training opportunities since 2007 - including a record 25,000 Modern Apprenticeships this year, which we now commit to for every year of this Parliament. This annual level is nearly 60 per cent higher than when we came to office.
- We will of course ensure that access to higher education is based in Scotland upon the ability to succeed rather than ability to pay
- We will maintain bursary support to help young people remain engaged in college and training
- We will invest in 14,500 pre-employment training opportunities
- We shall continue to fund the Educational Maintenance Allowance for young people in school and college
Our key commitment is to those young people who, as I said before, yearn to be productive. No young person should go through school only to become an unemployment statistic at the age of 16. We will not allow that in Scotland.
We already have 85 per cent of school leavers going on to positive outcomes - that is, employment, education or training. The 125,000 Modern Apprenticeships over five years will build on this success. But the strength of Scottish apprenticeships is their linkage to a real job - so expanding beyond that hugely impressive number is dependent on the labour market.
So that's why today I can announce the Opportunities for All initiative - a commitment that every single 16 - 19 year old in Scotland will be offered a learning or training place if they are not in already in a job, a Modern Apprenticeship or in education. Mr Russell the education secretary will announce further details of Opportunities for all in his statement next week.
This government's key policies focus on delivering growth. They are part of an ambitious plan for Scotland.
In recent years, we have been able to attract major international companies to Scotland - including in the last 12 months Amazon, Gamesa, State Street, Doosan Power, Ryanair, EasyJet, Tesco Bank, Virgin Money, Blackrock, INEOS/PetroChina and Mitsubishi Power Systems. We will increase our efforts in the months ahead to attract even more major international companies to Scotland.
We will announce in the autumn our plans for Enterprise Areas to attract new investment and jobs to Scotland.
We will work tirelessly to improve our links with to those economies that buy our goods and services because we recognise the importance of export growth in Scotland.
- The Scottish Investment Bank will prioritise lending to small and medium sized businesses with international ambitions as part of that growth strategy
- We have set a target to increase the value of international exports from Scotland by 50 per cent over the next six years
Our food and drink sector, our farming and fisheries, are a key part of what Scotland offers to the world. In June 2010 Scottish food exports broke the £1 billion pounds barrier for the first time.
But here, as elsewhere, we must not simply rest on our laurels. So a Bill on Agricultural Holdings will encourage landlords to increase availability of farming tenancies, and support new blood to enter farming.
And we are developing consultation proposals with a view to legislation to support the development and nessessary expansion of farmed fish and wild salmon and freshwater fisheries.
In normal economic times we would use Public Service Reform to help drive economic growth. But in the context of the unprecedented and extended real cuts being made to our budget over the coming years, it becomes an even more important component of our programme. If we are to maintain the levels of public services we all want, we need to do things smarter and better.
We therefore appointed the Christie Commission to look at ways to reform public services while also improving them. Christie recommended an emphasis on collaboration - our public services cannot operate in silos.
There was also a focus on investing in prevention which, in the longer term, can save money too.
We will publish a response to Christie in the very near future.
In health we will take action to improve the early detection of cancer.
Our Bill on minimum pricing for alcohol will tackle the scourge of alcoholism on Scottish society and families.
We will ensure that services are organised round the needs of individual by integrating health and social care.
A Bill on self-directed support will put those receiving care at the heart of the decision making about that care.
And we will deliver our commitments to Carers and Young Carers around better information, respite and support.
In education we will introduce far reaching reforms of our post-16 learning and student support. We will set these out in a pre-legislative paper.
And let me reaffirm our absolute commitment to keep university education free for Scottish students so that access to education in our country is based on ability to learn.
And to demonstrate our commitment to our young people, we will introduce a Rights of Children and Young People Bill, and, indeed, we are launching a consultation on that tomorrow.
We will introduce an Early Years Change Fund and build on our Children's Rights Bill, in the next session, with a Children's Services Bill. We will develop family centres, a national parenting strategy and a modern careers service - always with a focus on those with the greatest need.
We will introduce a European-style system of language teaching and a new programme of Scottish Studies, so our children acquire a deeper understanding of their own diverse culture and Scotland's place in the world.
We will make Scotland a safer country by rolling out the 'No Knives, Better Lives' programme, bring forward a radical reform of the courts and tribunals systems under the 'Making Justice Work' programme and progress the Offensive Behaviour at Football and Threatening Communications (Scotland) Bill to crack down on violent and bigoted behaviour.
Official statistics published yesterday report that crime levels in our country are now at their lowest level since 1976. Separate figures also confirm police numbers remain well above our target to keep 1,000 additional officers in Scotland's communities. Scots are feeling safer - 71 per cent say that local crime has improved or stayed the same in 2009/10, compared to 65 per cent in 2006. And 94 per cent of Scots rate their neighbourhood as a very or fairly good place to live.
But there is widespread recognition that reform is needed so that we can create services fit for 21st century Scotland - despite the London cuts.
Communities don't care about boundaries, they want services to work effectively and efficiently.
After detailed consideration of all the evidence available, we are persuaded that a single police service and a single fire & rescue service are the right options. This is the only way, in terms of the police service, to maintain the number of officers in every community, right across Scotland.
It will sustain and improve the delivery of local services, while giving all parts of Scotland access to national expertise and assets whenever and wherever they are needed.
And the reform will enhance national governance, ensuring clear separation from Ministers, to ensure the continued operational independence of these vital services.
Today I am announcing our intention to move towards single services. Tomorrow, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice will provide Parliament with further information, including how we will seek views on the options for how the new services will work in detail.
The Programme for Government, Government Economic Strategy and Spending Review set out how we will make full use of the economic levers currently devolved to the Scottish Parliament, with the aim of improving Scotland's rate of sustainable economic growth.
But it is also important to reflect on the type of country and economy we want to be in the future. In May, the people of Scotland voted for change.
They want this Parliament to have the control, flexibility and freedom to make the decisions that are right for Scotland.
Many of the key job-creating powers - particularly in relation to taxation and central elements of economic policy - lie outside the remit of the Scottish Government. Approximately 90 per cent of Scotland's revenues are collected by Westminster and are not set with any reference to economic circumstances here, or the preferences and needs of our businesses or households.
With greater responsibility we could address those needs.
The Scotland Bill fails to make things better. The tax proposals, as designed, are potentially damaging and could result in less funding for Scotland. Even more importantly, they provide no meaningful economic levers and fail to give Scotland power over its own wealth and resources.
We look to work with the Westminster Government and Parliament to strengthen the Scotland Bill into legislation that really takes Scotland forward.
The Conservative Party could benefit from knowing its own history. That applies to Labour and the Liberal Democrats as well. They should remember the Claim of Right they signed before the establishment of this Parliament. Let me remind the Chamber of what it said:
"We do hereby acknowledge the sovereign right of the Scottish people to determine the form of Government best suited to their needs, and do hereby declare and pledge that in all our actions and deliberations their interests shall be paramount".
In May the people of Scotland determined that they wanted key additions to the Scotland Bill. It is now the duty of the Claim of Right parties to respond to the expressed will of the Scottish people. I urge them to remember their own past and their own principles and join us in recognising the sovereign right of our people to determine the form of government they want here in Scotland.
Today we unveil a programme for government, practical measures to make our citizens safer and healthier, capital investment to aid our recovery. I would welcome constructive ideas from across the chamber on how to make Scotland better. Making Scotland better is the focus of this Government.
This is one reason why we won an historic victory in May. It was a recognition of our proven competence and commitment.
But yes, it was also about Scotland and our nation's future. The people are ready to move on to the next chapter of Scotland's story.
The first objective on the constitution is - as we set out in our election campaign - to deliver the much-needed new job-creating powers for this Parliament.
Those voters who put their trust in us also understand that the SNP believe in Independence. They understand that, and they do not fear it. We have won their trust and we will not abuse it.
We know that they are listening, keen to hear the positive story we have to tell about the future - their future as parents, students, workers, pensioners, carers, entrepreneurs and professionals.
They share our excitement about the project at hand - to build a better nation.
Independence will improve the future for all these people: It will be the Independence Generation.
It is the opposite of dependence, of limited ambition, of negativity, caution and pessimism.
It means rejecting those who tell us we are too lazy and too poor. Scotland is in a better financial position than the UK as a whole. We have been in current surplus for four out of the last five years recorded.
We also know that many of our most successful sons and daughters - Jim McColl, Tom Hunter, Audrey Baxter and Martin Gilbert - support more economic power, real economic, for Scotland.
Our population is growing - numerically as well as growing in confidence.
And it is that population, made up of millions of individuals and families, thousands of communities and businesses, who lie at the centre of this programme for government, the Government Economic Strategy and the Spending Review.
Our agenda for this Government is global in its spirit. It listens to those voices of economic sanity urging world leaders to invest for the future.
It takes note of the words of Christine Lagarde, head of the IMF who warns of the danger austerity poses to recovery.
It is a response to Professor Stiglitz, and to another leading economist Nouriel Roubini, a former advisor to President Bill Clinton. Professor Roubini is widely acknowledged as the man who predicted 2008 crash with his prescient warnings about the property bubble.
Earlier this month he said the nations of the world must move away from the Anglo Saxon model of Laissez faire and voodoo economics and indeed the continental European model of deficit driven states. He said: "The right balance today requires creating jobs partly through additional fiscal stimulus aimed at productive infrastructure investment."
Scotland should heed these calls from some of the finest economic minds in the world. But our desire to introduce that growth and balance is threatened by the voodoo economics of the London coalition - whose ministers lecture Scotland about our future.
Let them start by using their own powers wisely before they attack Scotland. A Scotland where sensible policies have employment above the UK average and unemployment below it. Where in the last 3 months Scotland created 24,000 out of the 25,000 aggregate jobs created in these islands.
We therefore much prefer to take advice from a Lagarde, a Stiglitz and a Roubini rather than a Moore, an Alexander or a Mundell.
This government prefers to think big for Scotland because this government knows where it is going. We have Scotland's interests at the heart of the programme I outline today. The people recognise our ambition and trust us to take Scotland further on its journey. So should this chamber.