As ever at Better Nation, we like to be ahead of the curve.  (What do you mean we never lead and always follow?!  What do you mean our predictions were ridiculously poor for the election?!!  Show us someone who had an SNP majority!)

Anyway, maybe we’re jumping the gun a little (especially since there’s no PO in place yet) but we’ve started casting our thoughts to the personnel who might make up Scotland’s first single-party majority Cabinet.  Malc up first here, and I think that consistency will be key.  I doubt that we’ll see many (if any) changes to the major players in the Cabinet, though we may see some changes at Ministerial level.  Indeed, we’ll definitely have one, since Jim Mather retired.  I think also that Alex Salmond might take the opportunity to slightly change his ministerial portfolios – just marginally.  That said, I hadn’t considered some of this until a post-election email from a councillor friend, so I’m kind of going along with his idea here.

So – here’s what I think the Cabinet will look like:

First Minister – Alex Salmond
Deputy FM & Health Secretary – Nicola Sturgeon
Finance Secretary – John Swinney
Education Secretary – Mike Russell
Justice Secretary - Kenny MacAskill
Rural Affairs & Environment Secretary – Richard Lochhead

Sub-Cabinet level:

Office of FM:
Minister for Parliamentary Business – Bruce Crawford
Minister for Europe & External Affairs – Aileen McLeod
Minister for Constitution & Culture –  Alex Neil

Minister for Public Health – Shona Robison
Minister for Housing, Communities & Sport – Michael Matheson

Minister for Enterprise – Joe FitzPatrick
Minister for Transport – Keith Brown
Minister for Local Government –  Derek MacKay

Minister for Children & Early Years – Adam Ingram
Minister for Schools & Skills – Angela Constance
Minister for Universities, Colleges & Apprenticeships – Fiona Hyslop

Minister for Community Safety – Fergus Ewing

Rural Affairs/ Environment:
Minister for the Environment & Climate Change – Linda Fabiani

I’ve gone for a few new job titles which may not happen.  I think the Constitution brief might stay separate from Europe etc, and I think the SNP will want a “big hitter” in the brief.  I’m not sure Salmond would trust Alex Neil not to be too… fundamentalist(!) with the job, but he’s the guy I’d expect in the role (assuming Mike Russell stays on in the Cabinet).  I’ve added Sport to Housing & Communities since there are issues with funding and reconstruction, particularly in football and rugby which will probably be political issues as well.  I’ve also added the role of Minister for Local Government because with a “permanent” Council Tax freeze (well, for five years), we’re looking at a relationship between councils and Holyrood which might need a proper go-between at ministerial level.  Finally, I’ve also added a Minister for “tertiary education”, including apprenticeships – which will help to show both commitment to job creation (a key Labour concern in the election) and university funding (likely to be a key issue in the next five years).

As to the personnel.  Couple of caveats.  I’m expecting Roseanna Cunningham to be in line for one of the PO jobs – whether it is PO or one of the DPO slots will depend on who other candidates are/ how much the SNP want the job I suspect – but if she isn’t elected there, I suspect she’ll be named back in her Environment brief from the previous session, with Linda Fabiani back on the back benches.  There are a couple of new faces in parliament straight into my ministerial team – but consider them more and they make a bit of sense.  Aileen McLeod has a PhD in Europe – she knows it inside out – and she’s worked in the European Parliament as well, and you want someone in the Europe brief who understands it.  Equally, Derek MacKay at Local Government.  He was the youngest council leader in Scotland for a time – and ran his council effectively.  He’ll have contacts at COSLA and relationships with councillors across Scotland – something required for the role.

I’ve also promoted a few names from the backbenches as well.  Michael Matheson is, for me, long overdue a position in the ministerial team, so he’d be my choice at Housing, Communities and Sport.  He has a background in being spokesperson for sport so I think that fits.  Joe FitzPatrick is another I was impressed with last term, and he spent a spell as Parliamentary Liaison for John Swinney, so I think a job in his department fits.  There are also a couple of other names I considered – and I think are also due promotion – Alasdair Allan, Jamie Hepburn and Aileen Campbell would be shouts here I think, but there are only so many jobs.  I suspect Brian Adam (former Chief Whip) and Tricia Marwick (formerly SNP presence on SPCB) will get Committee Convenorships, as perhaps will Stewart Maxwell and Dave Thompson.

So there we go – my “team for Scotland”.  What do we think?  Given how right my election predictions were, I can’t possibly be wrong… can I?!