Scotland’s Transport Secretary Stewart Stevenson has resigned following criticism of his handling of the big freeze. He was under intense pressure from opposition parties, who were said to be pushing for a motion of no confidence.
First Minister Alex Salmond had refused to sack his close cabinet ally, claiming that Stevenson had carried out his duties admirably and retained his full confidence. But Stevenson took the decision himself, saying that he could have done much more to assist the Scottish people to deal with the bad weather.
Last week’s heavy snowfall, which started during the rush hour on Monday morning, caused gridlock on Scotland’s roads, with thousands forced to spend the night stuck in their cars. Despite clear forecasts of snow, ministers initially tried to blame the Met Office for the chaos.
Every time snow falls in the Scottish winter chaos seems to ensue on the roads. Yet we are continually told that lessons have been learned and that next time it will all be different. But the contingency plans that should have been put into place were posted missing once more, and ultimately Stevenson has paid the price with his job.
The 64 year old MSP for Banff and Buchan is a former banker and business studies lecturer. His record in government was mixed, with praise for the climate change legislation he helped to steer through the parliament and criticism for the way a bill on the future of Scottish Water was mishandled and eventually withdrawn.
The new Transport Secretary is Keith Brown, who has been a junior education minister. He will have the task of attempting to restore public confidence in the transport system. Brown, who has been an MSP since 2007, is a former marine and a past leader of Clackmannanshire Council.
I have a feeling that the new Transport Secretary will be looking anxiously at the long term weather forecast. If there is more bad weather to come this week, as seems likely, he will face his first test as a minister rather sooner than he might have liked.