Humza Yousaf's Cabinet of 'B-list politicians' has a lot to prove – Scotsman comment

In assembling their Cabinet, First Ministers have a chance to spell out their priorities and stamp their authority on the new government.

It is also an opportunity to demonstrate a focus on the good of the nation, not their own political interests, by selecting ministers based on competence, rather than personal allegiance. A test that Boris Johnson, for one, failed spectacularly.

The statement announcing Humza Yousaf’s ten-strong Cabinet began by pointing out half were under 40 and there was, “for the first time”, a majority of women. However, while the latter is a landmark moment, neither gender nor youth should ever take precedence over talent.

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One woman who should have been there, Kate Forbes, is not, while Ivan McKee, Forbes’ campaign manager, quit as business minister after being offered a post he considered a demotion. So it seems clear that Yousaf, whose record was trashed by Forbes during the leadership campaign, is not secure or strong enough to tolerate dissent.

The new Deputy First Minister, Shona Robison, claimed Forbes, whose job as Finance Secretary she now holds, wanted “time out of the spotlight to spend time with her family”. This scarcely seems credible as just a few days ago Forbes was trying to become SNP leader and risks promoting the sexist idea that women with young children cannot be government ministers.

The Cabinet Secretaries’ titles also contain some rather concerning clues as to the new government’s priorities. Until yesterday, there was a Cabinet post called Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport. Despite the ongoing ferries crisis and the Scottish Government’s ownership of ScotRail and Prestwick Airport, there is now no one called Transport Secretary while, bizarrely, the closely interlinked issues of energy and working towards net-zero carbon emissions have been split up.

Another striking theme is the loss of big names, chiefly Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney and Forbes, and their replacement with inexperienced figures. Three of the ten are joining the Cabinet for the first time. Scottish Labour’s deputy leader Jackie Baillie said “this dismal Cabinet cements the SNP’s new status as a deeply divided party led by B-rate politicians”.

Given Scotland does not have its troubles to seek, it needs strong, effective government. This government of unknown talents has a lot to prove at a time when the stakes could not be higher.



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