This Week in Scotland: New ‘Team Scotland’

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Introduction

A new chapter in Scottish politics begins this week with the resignation of Alex Salmond, and appointment of Nicola Sturgeon as the fifth First Minister for Scotland.

Sturgeon announces first cabinet

Nicola Sturgeon has announced the makeup of her first cabinet and confirmation that John Swinney will be her deputy and Finance Secretary. The cabinet, which has 50-50 male female split, see promotions for Shona Robison (Health & Wellbeing) and Michael Matheson (Justice) while long-standing cabinet members Kenny MacAskill and Michael Russell make way.

There are also promotions for Keith Brown who moves from transport to Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities; Roseanna Cunningham who moves from Community Justice to Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills & Training; and Angela Constance who becomes Cabinet Secretary for Education & Lifelong Learning having previously held the skills brief.

Fiona Hyslop (Culture) and Richard Lochhead (Rural Affairs) have both retained their respective portfolios while Alex Neil moves sideways from Health to Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners Rights’.

Salmond Steps Down

After seven and a half years at the helm of the Scottish Government, Alex Salmond stepped down as Scotland’s First Minister. Delivering his resignation speech to parliament on Tuesday, Salmond stated that his tenure had been the “privilege of my life” before predicting “more change and better days” lie ahead for Scotland.

Although Salmond’s government has overseen major reforms in health, education and crime enforcement, possibly his most significant accomplishment of all was the ‘normalisation’ of independence. Under his tenure, Scottish independence moved from a remote possibility trumpeted by a diehard following, to 45% of the electorate.

Salmond has ruled out taking on Danny Alexander MP at next year’s General Election. However, there is the possibility he will stand in the Gordon constituency. It is doubtful that Salmond will remain on the Holyrood backbenches for long.

Sturgeon Elected First Minister

Having served as Alex Salmond’s deputy for all 7 years of his tenure as First Minister and seeing him as her political mentor, Nicola Sturgeon was officially confirmed as Scotland’s new and first female First Minister.

Having seen off a token challenge from Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson MSP, Sturgeon placed the issues of protecting and improving the NHS; supporting Scottish businesses home and abroad; education; crime; and tackling gender inequality in particular at the centre of her government.

Delivering a conciliatory speech, she promised to be a First Minister for all of Scotland regardless of their views on independence and that she would work to the best of her “ability” to work with the powers of the parliament.

SNP Conference

Last weekend the SNP party faithful gathered in their masses for their annual party conference. The slick conference saw Nicola Sturgeon succeed Alex Salmond as party leader and the election of Stewart Hosie MP as the party’s new deputy leader.

Unsurprisingly, the party was dominated by Salmond’s long goodbye. Delivering his final keynote address as leader, Salmond defended his government’s tenure, attacked Scottish Labour and the UK Government, and reiterated that the dream of Scottish independence is very much alive.

Away from Salmond, the SNP confirmed that it would allow non-members to stand for election at the upcoming UK General Election and that it could hold the “balance of power” at Westminster if current polling is to be believed. Delivering her first speech as party leader, Sturgeon ruled out any kind of deal that would keep David Cameron in Downing Street, she hinted that her party would be open to an informal confidence and supply agreement with Labour.

Scotland lowers drink drive limit

The Scottish Parliament has voted unanimously in favour of lowering the drink drive limit for Scotland. The new measure, which will reduce the blood alcohol limit from 80mg in every 100ml of blood to 50mg in every 100ml of blood, will come into force on December 5th. The move brings Scotland in line with most of Europe, but significantly would be different from the limit in the rest of the UK.

Shale Gas investment

Ineos, the chemical giant who owns Grangemouth, has confirmed that it is to invest £640million in shale gas exploration in the UK. Ineos has previously confirmed that Grangemouth would be importing shale gas from the USA as part of a plan to keep the site open.

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