MY appointment as Scotland’s Deputy First Minister this week is a moment of extraordinary privilege for me.

Supporting John Swinney as First Minister, and playing such an important role in his government as Cabinet Secretary for the Economy and Gaelic, is an honour.

It is also a significant responsibility to deliver for all of Scotland and one I do not take lightly. This is a crucial moment for the Scottish Government, the SNP and the wider independence movement.

Our competence as a government reflects how the wider public views independence.

READ MORE: Kate Forbes becomes Scotland's new Deputy First Minister

With a renewed focus on delivery, it is incumbent on the Scottish Government to show those yet to be convinced what Scotland can do with limited powers under devolution.

The argument is simple: if this is what we can deliver under the constraints of devolution, just think what we could do with the full powers of independence.

The constraints of devolution – of course – mean we must prioritise.

And when First Minister John Swinney was asked to name his government’s top priority, he didn’t miss a beat: eradicating child poverty.

Recent analysis shows that the SNP Scottish Government has lifted 100,000 children out of poverty.

Policies like the Scottish Child Payment, which I introduced when I served as finance secretary, and the SNP government’s £1 billion investment to tackle the poverty-related attainment gap make a tangible difference to the lives of children living in Scotland.

The progress made so far is an incredible achievement by our SNP Scottish Government. But in the 21st century, it is a disgrace that some children still go to bed hungry in a nation as rich as Scotland.

Meeting the First Minister’s ambition of eradicating child poverty means building on these successes. But it also means fresh thinking, new ideas, and a new way of working in Holyrood.

The National: EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - MAY 09: Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes listens as new First Minister of Scotland John Swinney attends his inaugural First Ministers questions at the Scottish Parliament on May 09, 2024 in Edinburgh, Scotland. Swinney was sworn inKate Forbes and John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament 

The First Minister has made it plain that politicians need to come together to deliver on shared priorities. In practical terms, this means politicians of all political persuasions leaving the tribalism of the past behind and coming together for all of Scotland.

The temperature of politics has undoubtedly risen in recent years, but I don’t think we are past the point of return – yet.

This also includes an admission from people like me that we need to redouble our efforts to make these ambitions a reality.

Scotland can – and must – do more with the powers we have to tackle child poverty. But in doing that, we must not shy away from the political reality that is in front of us.

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Indeed, I think we have a responsibility to be frank with the public on what the Scottish Parliament – of any political makeup – can and can’t control.

Under Westminster control, Scotland is subject to the turbulence of UK-wide economic decisions – from the economic carnage of Brexit to Liz Truss’s disastrous mini-Budget, which drove inflation sky-high, sent mortgages soaring and the markets into turmoil.

Now inflation is finally coming down, we have a Tory Prime Minister with a brass neck attempting to claim credit for rates falling.

You really couldn’t make this up. The implications of Westminster control are acute – and it’s ordinary Scots who pay the price for it.

As long as Scotland continues to operate with one hand tied behind our back, our economy will be held back.

As long as Scotland continues to operate with one hand tied behind our back, economic growth will be stifled.

As long as Scotland continues to operate with one hand tied behind our back, we will remain subject to the whims of a Westminster government Scotland did not vote for.

We know the solution to Westminster’s mismanagement is to have the normal powers of an independent country. It’s on all of us to take that case to the public.

And that case is as strong as it’s ever been.

In my first days as Deputy First Minister, I have spent time engaging with stakeholders from across the country – drilling down on what people need to thrive.

The National: First Minister John Swinney and Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes

Across these conversations, one thing was clear – the need for a booming economy. From the tourism sector to manufacturers, we all win when the economy is growing.

Unlocking Scotland’s potential is the key that allows our government to deliver on our priorities.

That the First Minister has tasked me with supporting economic growth in my portfolio speaks to the significance he places on growth, too.

Our nation is brimming with the brightest minds, bursting with ideas on how to uncover our potential.

We must not be afraid to listen to those voices out in the real world, rather than just imposing our views on them.

As an MSP representing a Highland constituency, I know the importance of a strong tourism sector and a government that acts on the needs of businesses to support that growth.

Tourism contributes more than £4bn to Scotland’s economy every year, opening up huge opportunities for the sector’s growth to support the wider economy.

I might even be slightly biased but I am confident my constituency plays a pretty substantial part of that – being the most beautiful in the country! But we have issues to face too – and it is crucial that communities feel the government is on their side when making decisions.

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An issue close to my heart is our Gaelic language, and I am delighted that the First Minister has asked me to be Scotland’s first-ever Cabinet Secretary for Gaelic.

Gaelic is a crucial part of Scotland’s cultural identity, to myself and many of my constituents in the Highlands and Islands. As a proud Gaelic speaker, I took the oath in Gaelic when I was sworn into the Parliament, and indeed when I was sworn in at the Court of Session last week as Deputy First Minister.

I am immensely proud to hold that great responsibility and I look forward to engaging with fellow Gaelic speakers to hear their views on how the Government best preserves this crucially important language.

It speaks to a wider point about our small nation having a vision far beyond its own borders.

Our potential could be unlimited, were it not for the limited powers of devolution.

We could be defeatist about what we cannot control or we can take full advantage of what we do – and I am a persistently positive thinker!

The task ahead is great – but I am ready to take it on.

My only ask is that you hold me to that promise – of delivering for the people of Scotland and building a better country for all.