TODAY people across Scotland can exercise a right sadly denied to far too many people across the world.

Democracy is precious and we are fortunate that today those of us lucky to live in Scotland can go to the polls today to decide who should be in government.

I hope as many people as possible exercise that right – because never has so much been at stake. 

Due to the pandemic this election has been like no other. Indeed, this last year has presented extraordinary challenges for all us.

As First Minister I haven’t got everything right over this past desperately difficult year but I have worked my hardest every day and brought total commitment to the task of keeping Scotland safe.

I know that is the very least I can do.

Today the people of Scotland will decide whether I or one of my opponents should be making the critical decisions about our path out of the pandemic and into recovery.
If I am given the privilege of being re-elected as First Minister my promise to Scotland is to continue to bring all my experience and focus to the over-riding priority of keeping you and your family safe.

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Thanks to the people of Scotland who have given up so much to tackle the pandemic, the incredible work of our NHS, and the brilliant vaccination programme we can be optimistic that better times lie ahead.

In this election, only the SNP is offering a serious programme for government for these serious times. We are the only party with a worked-put plan to build that better future we know is possible.

We’ll implement a full-scale re-mobilisation of the NHS to bring down waiting times, a jobs recovery plan including a Youth Guarantee for young people and a just transition to a net zero country to tackle the climate emergency.
We’re offering practical help with the cost of living. We’ll keep prescriptions free and we’ll abolish dental charges. 

We’ve introduced a new benefit for low income families which has been described as a game changer in the fight against child poverty – and if we are re-elected we will double the payment to help create a fairer country.

As part of that mission to build a fairer society we’ll invest £1 billion to make further progress in closing the poverty related attainment gap in education.

I believe these measures attract broad agreement across Scotland. But Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers are taking Scotland in a different direction – one that people here have made clear they do not want to travel.

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Their hard Brexit is costing jobs and will mean a permanent hit to Scotland’s economy.

Their brutal welfare cuts are creating yet more inequality and their desperation for a US trade deal means our NHS is definitely not safe in their hands.

That’s why I believe people in Scotland have the right to decide whether to become an independent country – once the Covid crisis has passed.

So today for strong, experienced leadership to keep Scotland safe, a serious programme for government to kick-start recovery and the right to decide Scotland’s future once the crisis is over – make it both votes SNP.