As head of the Scottish Government, the First Minister is responsible for the overall development, implementation and presentation of the administration's policies and for promoting and representing Scotland at home and overseas.
Subject to Parliament's agreement, the First Minister appoints other ministers - including a Deputy First Minister and cabinet secretaries - from among Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs).
The First Minister chairs the Scottish Cabinet, the main forum for ministers to consider and make key decisions on the strategic priorities and policies of the government to achieve its objectives.
The First Minister – also following the agreement of the Parliament – recommends to the Monarch the appointment of the Lord Advocate and Solicitor General (the 'law officers'). They are also members of the Scottish Government and, together with cabinet secretaries and junior ministers are collectively known as the 'Scottish ministers'.
The First Minister is also responsible for nominating judges for appointment by the Monarch, including the Lord President of the Court of Session and Lord Justice Clerk, following the recommendation of the Judicial Appointments Board for Scotland.
Scottish ministers, including the First Minister, are accountable to the Scottish Parliament for the policy and actions of the Scottish Government. As an MSP, any minister including the First Minister, may take part in debates or vote in the main chamber of the Scottish Parliament.
Born in Irvine in 1970 and educated at Greenwood Academy, she studied law at the University of Glasgow where she graduated with LLB (Hons) and Diploma in legal practice.
Before entering the Scottish Parliament as a regional MSP for Glasgow in 1999 she worked as a solicitor in the Drumchapel Law and Money Advice Centre in Glasgow.
She is currently MSP for Glasgow Southside having been, before boundary changes, MSP for Govan between 2007 and 2011.
In government she served as Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing between May 2007 and September 2012 and then Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities with responsibility for government strategy and the constitution until November 2014. Throughout this period she also served as Deputy First Minister of Scotland.
She became leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) on November 14, 2014 and was sworn in as First Minister on November 20, 2014. She lives in Glasgow with her husband Peter Murrell.