Willie Rennie stands for First Minister

Today I stood for election as First Minister to set out the Liberal Democrats priorities for the next five years of the Scottish Parliament. Education. Mental health services. The environment and civil liberties. These are all things that need to be at the top of the Holyrood agenda for the next five years. 

While we got the result that was expected it was important to make clear to Nicola Sturgeon that these are the issues that she will need to focus on once work at parliament starts in earnest next week.

This was my speech to MSPs at Holyrood:

"Ohhhh dad. You’re not are you?"

Those were the encouraging words from my unimpressed 12 year old son when he heard on the radio this morning that I was standing for First Minister.

I told Stephen that I had been inspired by a women nationalist leader who stood up against the odds.

But unlike Leanne Wood I won’t be relying on UKIP votes today.

This is the first time I have stood for First Minister in this parliament.

I did not stand in 2011 or 2014 because the SNP had a majority then.  No longer.  They have lost that majority.

In part I am standing to make that point.

We are all minorities here.

No manifesto commanded the support of a majority.

So we all need partners to win votes.

We are all equal in that respect.

Whoever becomes First Minister today cannot compel this chamber to agree to their demands.

Whoever wins the vote will need to work hard to persuade others to back any proposal.

I want this parliament to make Scotland the best again so that everyone can have the opportunity to succeed no matter what their background;

Where people can live as they wish as long as it does not cause harm to others and where we pass on the planet in a better state than we found it.

The next five years must deliver a step change in mental health services so they are treated on a par with physical illness.

I am proposing extra resources directed to primary care so that mental health professionals can work alongside GPs;

for work in accident and emergency and in partnership with the police;

and for extra capacity in child and adolescent services.

The next five years must deliver policies that enable us to exceed our climate change targets.

I am proposing a warm homes act, low carbon transport and no opencast coal so we can deliver real change. 

Cutting air passenger duty by 50% won't help. 

It will cut funds for public services and cause damage to the environment. So I am not proposing such a cut.

And fracking won't help either.  This is where the SNP must remember their rhetoric about the Tories may come back to haunt them.  The SNP may have to rely on the Conservatives for a majority from time to time.

We should use the next five years to make Scottish education the best in the world again.

I am proposing a £500million transformational investment so we can deliver extra resources for nurseries, schools and colleges to get our education back up the international rankings.

We have already persuaded the SNP of the merits of a pupil premium to get extra support to children who need it no matter where they live in the country.

Now we need to have a change of heart from the SNP on the use of tax powers so we can make that big investment – or will they look to the Conservatives to help them block that investment?

These next five years should be used to guarantee our civil liberties.

No return to armed police on routine duties or industrial scale stop and search.  And we need to kill off the much delayed but still possible intrusive super ID database. 

I am proposing to bring back local democratic oversight of the police.

I am positive about the Liberal Democrat agenda for this parliament.

I am positive about our ability to bring people together.

And I am more positive about my chances of winning today.

There are signs of change.  Those important signs that the momentum is with me.  I don’t want to upset Joe Fitzpatrick but some of his members are indicating they may cast a vote for me.

Mark McDonald smiled at me in the garden lobby last week.

Jamie Hepburn shook my hand.

Everyone knows about the special understanding I have with Bob Doris.

So with those positive signs I will leave members to choose the best programme and the best person to lead the Scottish Government for the next five years.

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