Health secretary Jeane Freeman wins top politician award

Jeane Freeman. Picture: John Devlin
Jeane Freeman. Picture: John Devlin
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Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has been named as Scotland’s Politician of the Year just five months after taking on the high-profile job.

Ms Freeman, a student communist who was later an adviser to former first minister Jack McConnell before joining the SNP, made a series of changes within weeks of being promoted to Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet.

She has set out a three-year action plan, backed with £850 million of funding, in a bid to ensure the NHS in Scotland meets a series of key waiting times targets.

She also announced NHS board debts were being written off with the Scottish Government as part of the introduction of a new medium-term financial framework.

Ms Freeman saw off competition from fellow Cabinet member, Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell and Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson to win the coveted title, which was awarded by The Herald newspaper.

Speaking after being given the prize at an awards ceremony at Edinburgh’s Prestonfield House Hotel, she said: “I’ve come a long way from being a student communist, haven’t I, and it was a fine discipline to learn.

“One of the things you learn when you move on from that discipline is the point of politics is to make a difference, and the make a difference you have to get elected.”

She added: “The point of politics is to make a difference, that’s why we do it. We shouldn’t do it to be somebody, we should do it to do something.”

Read more: Health secretary writes to EU workers at NHS Scotland over Brexit fears

Gillian Murray, who highlighted issues within mental health provision in NHS Tayside following the death of her uncle David Ramsay by suicide, was awarded Campaigner of the Year after a review of care in this area was announced.

With her campaign having taken an impact on her own mental health, she is taking a break, with her father Peter, and grandfather David Ramsay Snr collecting the award on her behalf.

In an emotional speech Mr Murray praised her work, saying: “We can’t describe how difficult the past few years have been.”

Labour Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney won Best Scot at Westminster, in part in recognition for his effective lobbying of the UK Government in immigration cases such as that of Giorgi Kakava, a 10-year-old orphan who had been threatened with deportation following the death of his mother.

While Mr Russell lost out on the top prize, he was named as the Donald Dewar Debater of the Year after spending much of his last year taking on the Tories over Brexit.

Meanwhile former minister Bruce Crawford was honoured as the Committee MSP of the Year after the Finance and Constitution Committee which he chairs sat through marathon sessions scrutinising the Scottish Government’s Brexit continuity bill.

Kate Forbes, who was made Digital Economy Minister was named as the One to Watch following both her promotion to the government and her campaigning efforts to try to end the use of plastic drinking straws.

Efforts to tackle the problem of everyday Islamophobia by Labour MSP Anas Sarwar saw him receive he award for Community MSP of the Year, with Mr Sarwar having set up a cross party group at Holyrood as part of this work.

Meanwhile Tory finance spokesman Murdo Fraser was given the Politics in Business Award, and Ms Sturgeon was awarded the E-Politician of the Year for her effective use of Twitter, and Dundee City Council leader Councillor John Alexander was named Scottish Local Politician of the Year.

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