MOST mothers dread the return from maternity leave. It has certainly been quite a tough first week back as I launched my bid to be Scotland’s next first minister.

This election is about independence, who is best equipped, and who has the best plan to achieve it. It is also about the society we want Scotland to be – where tolerance is the ruling ethic, differences are welcomed, fairness is the norm, equality of opportunity is the birth right of every child, poverty becomes history, and the rule of law applies to everyone.

Independence is front and centre of my campaign; it’s the core purpose of the SNP. I believe that we need to show – right now – Scotland’s potential as an independent small country in Europe.

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At the same time, we need to re-engage the Yes movement, which is full of talent and ideas, in uniting behind the common cause of independence. As a party, we are the largest entity in the movement, but we must build bridges, to those of different parties and none, and create the space to meaningfully engage on the path to independence.

I am hugely ambitious for Scotland. Underpinning that ambition is the need to grow a sustainable economy, to be at the forefront of building a nation characterised by innovation and entrepreneurship. We must break from the past. If we want the same outcomes, I suggest we continue with the same old practices. If we want to maximise support for independence, eradicate poverty and grow our economy, then we need to be bolder, braver and more realistic. Ultimately, we also need a competent leader who is fresh-faced and ready.

The National: Kate Forbes

As Finance Secretary during Covid-19 and the cost of living crisis, I have proven myself as a credible and competent public servant, trusted with the national budget. Competence breeds confidence.

We need a leader who can get the job done, deliver on promises and demonstrate they’ve got a grip on governance. But I also understand the importance of being surrounded by a competent team. Under my leadership, I want to develop a model that gives increased autonomy to my team in Cabinet and members of the SNP, pushing power out and down.

I also want to take a much wider approach to genuinely listening to informed voices when it comes to policymaking. There are numerous think tanks such as Common Weal who have been working away to produce policy papers and suggestions that have not been getting the hearing that they deserve. We need to broaden the range of voices, and although it would be impossible to agree with every suggestion from every source, all well-considered suggestions should be carefully considered.

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As leader of the SNP, I stand ready to work with all of my party colleagues, to work with the wider Yes movement to build the credible case for independence, and with Scots of all views to lead Scotland into better days. Our neighbouring small, independent countries enjoy wealthier, fairer and greener outcomes – there is no reason why Scotland cannot.

I believe that we can create a country which is once again the envy of the world. I am committed to doing everything in my power to make that vision a reality, and I hope that you will join me on this journey.