We already know who the new First Minister will be, but what might Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet look like? Will she bring a new broom to sweep the old guard out, or will she be relying on their staying power?
First, let’s consider the Party. The SNP has grown immeasurably since the referendum. Nicola therefore has not only to be an effective governor of a nation, but also of her party. That will be no mean feat and the party’s own administration will need to be beefed up. Many of those new members will be from the left-wing – an area of policy that Nicola is already more than comfortable with, but poses a more delicate question about the balance of her Cabinet. Should they reflect the Party or a nation at large? Whatever the balance, Nicola will want to make sure the new Cabinet list bears her stamp on it and we can expect to see some of those MSPs closest to her gaining from her elevation – but nor will she want to alienate voters. We certainly expect to see a strong female representation at Cabinet level.
Secondly, the Scottish Government under the SNP has built up a reputation of credibility. You might not agree with their policies, but the SNP have shown themselves to be very capable at governance. That is not a reputation you want to throw away, particularly when a raft of new powers are coming your way. So some semblance of stability will be important – particularly on financial matters.
Campaigns to come
Finally, the new FM will be thinking about the road ahead. The referendum may be over, but there is a General Election next year and the Scottish Parliament and local government elections during the successive years after. That means that the campaigning mode of the Party and Government needs to be maintained through some young, dynamic individuals. The changed political environment will also see some changes to ministerial portfolios, including a renewed focus on social justice. With the Commonwealth Games now out of the way, it is likely that sport will be subsumed into a wider portfolio.
Towards a new Cabinet
So, to achieve that level of balance, what might we see happening? To ensure stability within the Scottish Government, we would expect to see big hitters like John Swinney MSP maintaining their brief. We would also expect to see big portfolio positions for the likes of Shona Robison – and Keith Brown or Angela Constance if they are not successful in securing the Deputy position. Expect also to see strong positions for the likes of Derek Mackay MSP and Humza Yousaf MSP and, with some of the previous Ministers edged out, we can expect to see some new blood coming into the junior positions with MSPs like Mark McDonald or Jim Eadie. For those who lose their ministerial positions, there may well be Committee positions available for them to fill.
Nicola’s new Cabinet is likely to contain some familiar faces, but with a number of major challenges and opportunities for the Party ahead, we also think the new Cabinet will be reflect these changing times.