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Scottish Government: First Minister Speech: Bute House Agreement Ends

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Scottish-Gov

First Minister Humza Yousaf’s press conference speech at Bute House, Edinburgh, on Thursday 25 April 2024.

“Good morning everybody.

A little over twelve months ago, I took up residence in this house as First Minister of Scotland.

Those present here this morning will have passed by the official portraits hanging on the wall of First Ministers past and present.

These portraits chronicle the political journey that Scotland has been on over the last quarter of a century.

Each of those First Minsters – in very different political climates – did what they thought was best in the best interests of Scotland.

They played the hand that circumstance had dealt them, to the very best of their ability.

On the day that Parliament nominated me to be First Minister, I set out how I intended to take Scotland forward.

I said I wanted to ensure every single family in Scotland has equality of opportunity, regardless of their background or where they live.

To deliver focused and ambitious measures which protect our environment, promote economic growth, improve people’s well-being and crucially, reduce poverty.

Fundamentally, I want to inspire confidence in people across this land that the best way to achieve the strongest economy, the best public services and the healthiest, happiest population is by becoming an independent nation.

Over the past year, I’m proud to have laid the foundations of that vision.

We are investing record amounts in our NHS – ensuring it can employ record numbers of staff, deliver the best performing A&E units in the UK.

We are the only part of the UK to avoid pay-related strike action in our NHS.

I have delivered a council tax freeze this year in every local authority  – helping families where we can during a cost of living crisis.

We’ve removed peak fares on our railways.

And last week, we approved plans for Europe’s largest floating offshore windfarm.

These are just some of the actions making Scotland a better country.

During my time as First Minister, Scotland’s economy continued to grow while the UK fell into recession.

Average earnings in Scotland are forecast to grow faster than the rest of the UK.

Attainment is at a record high, and record numbers of students from deprived areas are entering university.

We are estimated this year to lift 100,000 children out of poverty this year due to our actions as a Scottish Government.

Renewable technologies generated the equivalent of 113% of Scotland’s overall electricity consumption in 2022.

Scotland continues to be the top destination in the UK for foreign investment outside of London.

And just this week, a report by HMRC found that far from driving people away from Scotland, our progressive taxation policy has actually been accompanied by a net migration from people across the UK.

Thousands more people are coming to Scotland than leaving, generating tens of millions in additional tax revenue.

Being First Minister is both an enormous privilege and a great joy.

The privilege of being able to make a positive difference in people’s lives, every single day.

And the joy of meeting inspirational people from all walks of life – each, in their own way, making life better for their families and their communities gives me an unrivalled perspective on the many opportunities and the challenges that our nation faces.

As leader of this Government, I have to decide how we can best meet those challenges.

How can we grow our economy in a fair and sustainable way?

How can we ensure vital public services like our NHS are the best they can be?

And how do we play our part as a responsible global citizen – helping to tackle issues like the climate and nature emergencies?

For almost three years, we have of course done that through our cooperation agreement with the Scottish Green Party.

That agreement has undoubtedly brought many successes

That includes delivering a progressive budget, which prioritises our NHS and public services over tax cuts for the wealthy, includes free bus travel for under-22s, bringing ScotRail into public ownership,

And committing the first £75 million of the ten year Just Transition Fund for the North East and Moray.

Cooperation, in any sphere of life, is almost by definition a trade-off – one in which the benefits of working together are held up against limitations of compromise.

And when it comes to our agreement with the Scottish Green Party, I have believed that the benefits have outweighed the compromises.

When I said that the agreement was worth its weight in gold – I meant it.

However, it is now in  my judgment that the balance has  shifted.

The Bute House Agreement was intended to provide stability to the Scottish Government, and it has made possible a number of achievements.

But it has served its purpose.

It is no longer guaranteeing a stable arrangement in Parliament.

The events of recent days have made that clear.

And therefore after careful consideration, I believe that going forward, it is in the best interests of the people of Scotland to pursue a different arrangement.

That is why, following a discussion with my Cabinet this morning, I have formally notified Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater that I am terminating the Bute House Agreement with immediate effect.

I spoke to both Patrick and Lorna earlier this morning, and I thanked them both for their substantial contributions to the Scottish Government and to Scotland, and their public service over the last few years.

I also made clear to them my intention that our respective parties continue to work together where we can, in the national interest.

Significantly, we are resolute in our determination to give the people of Scotland a say on their constitutional future.

In essence, we will still be cooperating – but just returning to a less formal arrangement.

This brings me to what happens next.

Having laid the foundations for my priorities in government over the last thirteen months, we will now step up our ambitions.

But we will do so as a minority government.

That will be tough.

We will seek to work not just with the Scottish Greens, but with MSPs from across the chamber.

Having served as a Minister for a number of years during that time, I am well used to working constructively with opposition parties to secure parliamentary support – and I have no issue with doing so again.

It was of course under that arrangement that some of our biggest successes in government were achieved – be that the creation of a Scottish Social Scotland, a progressive taxation regime, the creation of a Scottish National Investment Bank and of course free university tuition.

Despite the many challenges thrown in our way such as UK Government austerity, Brexit and a global pandemic – this government has delivered for the people of Scotland.

But the challenges of yesterday are not necessarily the challenges of tomorrow.

We need to speak to the country with one voice.

Our voice.

As such, I am very clear that today marks a new beginning.

I have a clear policy agenda I wish to take forward – one that centres around:

  • Growing our economy and supporting business, improving our NHS, tackling poverty, and child poverty in particular, and helping households during a cost of living crisis.
  • Standing up for the rights of everyone in Scotland, especially our most marginalised.
  • And – for the avoidance of any doubt – tackling the climate emergency.

A parliament of minorities need not be – and should not be – a parliament of enemies.

At its best, the Scottish Parliament has achieved great things for the people of Scotland.

And as we approach its twenty-fifth anniversary, let us all pause, reflect and re-dedicate ourselves to ensuring that it continues in that vein.

Let me conclude with a direct message to the people of Scotland.

During my first year of leadership, I hope I have demonstrated to you that I am fighting to change Scotland for the better.

I am working tirelessly to build a strong, sustainable economy which works for everyone.

To strengthen our NHS and other public services.

To build a country in which everyone feels accepted and is able to reach their full potential.

And do what I can to create a more peaceful world.

We have unlimited ambition for all those who are fortunate enough to call it their home.

As your First Minister, I will always – always – put Scotland’s interests first.”

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