LAST week marked the 100th day since the formation of the new SNP Scottish Government.

Since being returned to government, the SNP has wasted no time in pressing ahead with our ambitious policy platform and taking the bold steps that I hope will make Scotland a fairer, greener, more prosperous country. 

Recovery from the Covid pandemic is the Scottish Government’s most pressing priority.

Part of that recovery will be ensuring that our NHS is equipped to deal with the impacts of the pandemic, support our recovery, tackle structural inequalities in our health services and address long-term health challenges Scotland faces. 

As part of our 100 days commitment, we published an NHS Recovery Plan which commits an additional £1 billion to increase capacity and drive the innovation needed to tackle Covid backlogs and put the NHS on a sustainable path for the future – and a Women’s Health Plan to address inequalities in our health service and ensure that women receive the best care possible.

We’ve also permanently ended charges in PFI hospital car parks and scrapped dental charges for young people aged 18-25 – benefitting 600,000 young Scots across the country.

The pandemic has had a major impact on our education system too, with both children and teachers having to adapt to the new normal of online learning last year. 

To support our education system and ensure that no children miss out, we have provided funding for 1000 extra teachers and 500 pupil support assistants in schools across the country.

We’ve also delivered on our commitment that all three and four-year-olds, and two-year-olds who need it most, will be eligible for more than 1100 hours of free early learning and childcare each year. And we have started work to provide every school pupil in Scotland – 700,000 children –with a laptop or tablet. 

And finally, the Scottish Government has taken the first steps to establish a public inquiry into the pandemic – which puts the people who have been affected, and those who have lost loved ones through Covid, at the heart of it.

Hearing those who have faced the heartbreaking situation of losing a loved one to Covid over the past 18 months should remind us all that this virus remains a real and present threat.

Vaccines are still protecting against serious illness, but we all need to take care and act in a way that minimises the risk of getting and spreading the virus. There are still people eligible for the vaccine who haven’t yet been to get their jag. 

If you are one of those people, I’d appeal to you to turn up at your nearest drop-in centre – and if you have any doubts about vaccination, go along to a centre anyway. The staff and volunteers there will be able to answer any questions you have and talk to you about the process of getting vaccinated. 

As I’ve made clear, steering Scotland through the Covid-19 pandemic is my overriding priority right now – but I also believe we must look to the future, with a will to do things differently in order to recover from the pandemic, and to recognise that “business as usual” is not good enough after the last 18 months that every single person in Scotland has faced. 

Radical action is now needed to rebuild our economy, to support public services such as our NHS, to support our young people who have had to cope with significant disruption to their education, and to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

I hope that many of the targeted policies we have announced over the last three months will deliver demonstrable progress for the people, families and communities who need support most, and allow us to prepare for the major rebuilding exercise that lies ahead.

As part of that renewal and recovery, I was also delighted to confirm that the Scottish Government reached a co-operation agreement with the Scottish Green Party – meaning that, for the first time in UK politics, Greens will enter national government.

Importantly, our agreement with the Scottish Green Party is one which will meet the challenges and opportunities of our time. It’s about doing politics better by focusing on consensus and co-operation – which is, in my experience, what most people want from their politicians after living through a global pandemic. 

That co-operation is also essential if we are to find the solutions needed to solve the problems confronting the world today, like climate change and recovery from Covid. We have a big job to do in the coming years – which is why it’s vital that elected representatives work together to deliver better government and a better Scotland. 

Next week, we will publish the Programme for Government – the Scottish Government’s legislative plan for the next year. It will build on the progress made in the first 100 days, and allow us to respond, recover and rebuild from the Covid pandemic, and it will include policies which I know will deliver on our promises to the people 
of Scotland.