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A victim of the climate

Brian Taylor | 17:42 UK time, Saturday, 11 December 2010

And so he has gone: a victim of the climate, in two senses.

Stewart Stevenson has resigned as Scotland's Transport Minister, admitting to failures of communication during the harsh snow last week.

Equally, he blames a political campaign, presumably enhanced by the pre-election atmosphere at Holyrood.

Labour and the other opposition parties are building a narrative for that election which is based upon depicting the SNP as stranded in office, unable to act.

Challenging the Scottish government - and Mr Stevenson in particular - over the transport problems suits that narrative admirably.

Equally, though, several backbench SNP MSPs found themselves squirming somewhat as their party found itself obliged to defend Mr Stevenson.

Privately, several thought that he had not helped his own case by initially praising the efforts to keep traffic moving as "first class".

More than one said to me that, had the roles been reversed with the SNP in opposition and Labour in power, they would have mounted a sustained attack.

The First Minister Alex Salmond feels that the resignation is unwarranted.

Indeed, he persuaded his colleague and close friend to think again when resignation was offered on Thursday - after sharp exchanges on the issue at Holyrood.

Mr Salmond's statement tonight speaks of "reprehensible" parliamentary game-playing by the party's opponents.

He praises Mr Stevenson's "diligence and devotion".

Speaking for the party, Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP goes further.

She says a "decent and dedicated man" has been "hounded from office".

His critics, she says, should hang their heads in shame.

Among other comments, Friends of the Earth praise the departing minister's contribution to addressing climate change.

But, on the same topic, Patrick Harvie of the Greens says that Mr Stevenson appeared to enjoy ministerial status without truly understanding the issues.

As to preparing for Scotland's winter, Part Two, John Swinney is in direct charge - with a replacement minister due to be appointed tomorrow (Sunday).


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