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Send in the marine

Brian Taylor | 14:15 UK time, Sunday, 12 December 2010

We have had servicemen and women clearing the streets in Edinburgh.

Now, with further snow forecast, Scotland has sent for the marines. Or, more precisely, a former marine in the shape of Keith Brown MSP who is to be the new transport minister.

Not since John Reid allegedly greeted a new role in Cabinet with "Oh f . . ., not health!" can a ministerial appointment have been such an overt challenge to the lucky winner. Last week's snow closed the airports, clogged the roads and railways - and, ultimately, ended a ministerial career.

Keith Brown has been seen as an effective operator in his previous post as schools minister.

He has been resolute, declining to flap in the face of substantial opposition pressure and troublesome statistics.

Good training for the new task.

From a Scottish government point of view, it is sensible to hand the transport brief to an MSP with ministerial experience, albeit relatively limited.

Full attention

To borrow a phrase from an ex-PM, this is no time for a novice. It is equally sensible to divest Mr Brown of the climate change role held by his predecessor Stewart Stevenson.

(That goes to Roseanna Cunningham.) Transport needs his full attention at the moment. One suspects it will get it - along with that of his Cabinet boss, John Swinney, and indeed the FM.

It is a Holyrood welcome too - depending upon parliamentary approval - to a new Minister: Angela Constance.

She has been a sound, if undemonstrative, presence on the backbenches and in committee.

Might be a good combination - especially as she can leave any required flamboyance to her Cabinet boss, Michael Russell.

The entire episode is a reminder, if one were needed, that Alex Salmond does not have a majority in Holyrood.

The moment the opposition parties threatened to combine over a confidence motion, Mr Stevenson's position became untenable, despite support from Mr Salmond.

SNP rivals

In addition, it would appear that Mr Stevenson took an honourable stance. He was badly hurt by the opposition taunts and the concomitant press lampooning.

He concluded that he was no longer serving his government or his party by remaining in office and chose to depart, albeit in the face of a threatened kick from the SNP's rivals in parliament.

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