Tom Peterkin: Frisson among ranks of the ambitious

MSP Derek MacKay. Picture: Ian Rutherford
MSP Derek MacKay. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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THERE was an interesting scene in the Holyrood canteen this week when that promising youngster Derek MacKay stopped to exchange some banter with a journalist.

The SNP member had noticed a blog speculating that he could eventually become finance secretary once Nicola Sturgeon gets her feet under the desk in Bute House.

The idea that he might land such a plum job tickled MacKay, who was clearly thrilled by the thought that his star was in the ascendancy.

For capable and ambitious politicians like MacKay, there is always the frisson of expectation that a change of leadership might lead to personal advancement.

With the newly elected SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie based at Westminster, John Swinney is widely tipped to take over Sturgeon’s old job as deputy first minister. Bearing that in mind, the theory doing the rounds is that MacKay’s influence could grow in the finance department.

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More responsibility could be handed to MacKay. That would ease the burden on Swinney, who has a young family, and ensure that when he does step down as finance secretary there is a ready-made replacement.

One member of Alex Salmond’s old guard who seems certain to go is Kenny MacAskill. Salmond has shown a stubborn loyalty to his justice secretary. The greater the clamour for MacAskill’s departure from the opposition benches, the greater was Salmond’s determination to hang on to him.

MacAskill’s term in office has been dogged with controversy – from the release of the Lockerbie bomber to more recent rows over stop-and-search, plus the closure of courts and police counters.


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A new broom will surely see MacAskill swept away, if only to give someone else the chance to make a fresh start. Although defeated by Hosie for the SNP deputy position, Keith Brown proved in that contest that he is popular with parliamentarians. He may well replace MacAskill. With Sturgeon’s strong commitment to gender equality, it is inevitable that there will be key posts for women.

Expect the third defeated candidate for the deputy post, Angela Constance, the current women’s employment cabinet secretary, to be in line for a move. Mike Russell would be reluctant to move from education, but that portfolio could be up for grabs.

Sturgeon’s great friend Shona Robison could also be in line for a move as a reward for delivering the Commonwealth Games. She has served as a junior health minister, so it would not be too outlandish to see her take over from Alex Neil, another veteran of the Cabinet associated with the Salmond era.


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