BREXIT, the NHS and Nicola Sturgeon’s reshuffle loom large in The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards as they celebrate their 20th year as the highlight of the political calendar.
Michael Russell, the Brexit minister who was elevated to the cabinet as Constitutional Relations Secretary, is nominated for a second year for the prestigious main title after continually challenging Westminster intrusions into devolved areas.
Besides badgering the UK government to rewrite the EU Withdrawal Act, he also steered the Scottish Government’s alternative Brexit law through Holyrood in a first for devolution.
Also nominated, and also promoted in June’s reshuffle, is Jeane Freeman. After overseeing the introduction of Scotland’s fledgling social security system, she was entrusted with the biggest spending portfolio as Health Secretary, bringing a new sense of focus to the brief.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson, the winner of the main category in the last two years after her party’s electoral gains, is nominated for her continued prominence on the UK stage and publishing a searingly honest account of her mental health problems.
The judges, chaired by Donald Martin, editor-in-chief of Newsquest Scotland, felt the awards were the most tightly contested in many years, with a series of knife-edge decisions.
Three different parties are represented in the Best Scot at Westminster Category.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford features after leading a high-profile walkout over devolution and for a consistently high performance at Prime Minister’s Questions.
Deputy UK LibDem leader Jo Swinson, who published a book on gender equality and made history by taking her baby into a Commons debate, is also nominated, alongside Labour’s Paul Sweeney, who has rapidly built a reputation as a prolific campaigner.
Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie and the spiky Labour MSP Jackie Baillie are nominated for Donald Dewar Debater of the Year, as are Mr Russell, the SNPs voice on Brexit, and his cabinet colleague John Swinney.
Two members of Holyrood’s public audit committee, Labour’s Jenny Marra and the SNP’s Alex Neil, are vying for Committee MSP of the Year, recognised for their work holding the powerful to account.
Also shortlisted is the SNP’s Bruce Crawford, whose finance committee oversaw the landmark Brexit continuity bill.
Ms Marra is also shortlisted in the Community MSP of the Year section for campaigning on problems at NHS Tayside. Her Labour colleagues Anas Sarwar and Neil Findlay are nominated for their work on Islamophobia and NHS Lothian respectively. The SNP’s Richard Lochhead is named for fighting unfair delivery charges in the Highlands & Islands.
Green education spokesperson Ross Greer, Conservative justice spokesman Liam Kerr, and new public finance minister Kate Forbes are in contention in the One to Watch category.
Ms Davidson receives her second nomination for the Politics in Business Award alongside two former winners of the category, Tory Murdo Fraser and SNP Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing.
Heading for 1m followers on Twitter, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is nominated for best E-Politician alongside her Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf. Ms Swinson, who exposed a Westminster voting scandal via Twitter, gets a nomination in this category too.
Fans Against Criminalisation, the football supporters who drove the repeal of the SNP law designed to tackle sectarianism in the game, are nominated for the Public Campaign or Campaigner of the Year Award. Also shortlisted are Gillian Murray, who fought for improvements in mental health treatment after her uncle’s suicide, and Scottish Women’s Aid and Zero Tolerance for their work on shaping the Domestic Abuse (Scotland) Act.
In the Local Politician of the Year category, the nominees are Dundee council leader John Alexander, Edinburgh leader Adam McVey, Inverclyde leader Stephen McCabe and Cosla president Alison Evison.
The 2018 Awards, to be held at Prestonfield House in Edinburgh on November 22, are sponsored by Virgin Trains, NVT Group, ScottishPower, Royal Bank of Scotland, and Openreach. This year the awards are also supported by Scottish Water.
Malcom Buchanan, Managing Director Corporate & Commercial Banking, Royal Bank of Scotland, said: “2018 has been a significant year for the Scottish and UK Governments and has brought into focus the importance of strong leadership in politics. “The finalists selected in the Politics in Business Awards category reflect this and each has shown a commitment and understanding of the needs and wants of businesses in these challenging and uncertain times. “We wish every contender the very best of luck.”
Keith Anderson, Chief Executive of ScottishPower Renewables said: “We would like to congratulate this year’s finalists for the awards. The judges have selected a group who have made a significant contribution and particularly those in the one to watch category, which ScottishPower are proud to support.”
Clive Selley, CEO of Openreach, said: “Congratulations to everyone shortlisted in this year’s Awards. We’re very pleased to be supporting the Local Politician of the Year Award and all of the finalists have shown outstanding public service and staunch commitment to the communities they serve. We wish the very best of luck to all the contenders on the night.”
Hamish Fraser, Managing Director of NVT Group said: “NVT Group is very proud to be associated with The Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards in 2018, which is our 30th anniversary year. Taking a look at all the 2018 nominees, including those in the ‘Donald Dewar Debater of the Year’ category, which we are delighted to sponsor, we are once again impressed by the breadth of political talent we have in Scotland. Everyone at NVT Group would like to congratulate those who have been shortlisted. I’m sure we are just as excited as you to find out who the winners will be on November 22nd. Good luck!”
To discuss attending the awards contact Lyndsay Wilson, Events Director on 0141-302 7407.