Included in the toll of seats which the party won from the SNP last week, the Tories have also taken the political scalp of Nicola Sturgeon’s Environment and Climate Change Minister.
In a parliamentary seat re-drawn from the former Galloway and Upper Nithsdale, Finlay Carson won Galloway and West Dumfries for the Tories with a 43.5% share of the vote.
Even with a 5% upswing in her vote, Aileen McLeod, who served as Environment Minister from November 2014, finished in second place on the first-past-the-post vote with a 39% share.
As she did not stand on the South of Scotland ‘top up’ list vote, she is now no longer an MSP.
An SNP spokesman said: “Aileen McLeod stood in a Conservative held seat – Galloway and West Dumfries – and all that happened is that the Conservatives held onto the <old> seat. Aileen actually increased the SNP vote by 5% – but it wasn’t enough to unseat the Conservatives on this occasion.
“So no one ‘took her scalp’. She was elected on the list previously but because the SNP got record support in the constituencies we didn’t get as many list seats because of the complex and proportional nature of the electoral system.”
Nevertheless, this ministerial gap (or ‘scalp) is one of the many reasons why there will now be a Cabinet re-shuffle by Nicola Sturgeon, who is expected to be re-affirmed as Scottish First Minister later this week.
Although not a top Cabinet job, the gap in the SNP Government’s ministerial line-up could potentially pose a big problem for Sturgeon.
The ‘easy’ solution would be to offer it to a Green MSP – but that would immediately put him/her into conflict with erstwhile Scottish Energy (and Enterprise) Minister Fergus Ewing over shale energy.
While there is much agreement between the SNP and the Greens across the policy spectrum – including Scotland’s Independence – a permanent ban on fracking for shale gas is not (yet) SNP policy. And Sturgeon has also ruled out a formal coalition with a junior partner.
In her manifesto, Sturgeon said she was ‘deeply sceptical’ about the public health and safety aspects of shale gas exploration – effectively ‘outing’ Fergus Ewing who stoutly maintained a neutral public stance on the issue pending the outcome of the still-ongoing government consultations for ‘evidence-led’ scientific reports.
However, she could offer to help the Greens get, say, the chairmanship of the Energy and Enterprise Committee in Holyrood.
The environment is too important a post to be left vacant. Scottish Energy News has invited the Scottish Environment Minister to attend SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE.
We just hope there will (still) be a Scottish Environment Minister to take part in the debate with Scotland’s renewable industry by then when, time and time again, the industry has said that it wants policy –
If you want to contribute to the debate on SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE – along with Holyrood MPs from all parties – then come along and make your voice heard on Thursday, 26 May 2016 at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation.
* SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE conference, 26 May 2016.
For more information: http://www.scotlandsrenewablefuture.co.uk/
Meanwhile, ALAN DUNCAN is one of many prominent speakers at SCOTLAND’S RENEWABLE FUTURE forum. He will speak on the topic: “Where Did the ‘Saudi Arabia of Renewables’ Go Wrong?”