John Swinney announces new cabinet and retains same old team

John Swinney delivered his new look cabinet yesterday on his first day as First Minister.

But there was very little new about it apart from a return to government for Kate Forbes. Every other minister was retained and keeps the same job as they did under Humza Yousaf.

It’s a bit like a new football manager and his assistant taking over a failing football team - but keeping exactly the same players on the park. Swinney insists he is no continuity candidate.

But that’s a hard sell to the voters when he has kept ministers in place who are widely viewed as failing to deliver on public services.

If you look at almost any area of Scottish life - schools, hospitals, trains, roads - there’s a widespread perception that major improvements are required.

Changing those in charge of these services might have signalled Swinney’s drive to deliver on bread-and-butter issues like health and education.

Swinney and his team will argue the ministers delivering these services need more time to bring about the improvements we desperately need.

Many of them have had very little time to bring about radical improvements.

He will also argue that with himself and Kate Forbes at the helm, there will be a greater emphasis on improving public services.

But in attempting to keep senior members of his own party onside, Swinney has missed a chance to present himself as the real change candidate to the electorate.

This opens the door to Labour presenting themselves as the transformers who will make the difference that Scotland needs.

If our public services do not get any better, Anas Sarwar will claim only his party can turn things around.

Swinney has an opportunity to make a difference - and he deserves his chance to shine.

But sticking with the same team means the real change is Swinney himself, so results rest on his shoulders, and the public will expect to see improvements ... and fast.

It's just not fare

Scrapping peak rail fares has been a huge success.

So it is unbelievable that SNP ministers are preparing to undo that good work by bringing them back.

At a time when we face both a cost of living crisis and a climate crisis, it’s daft to be reintroducing deeply unpopular peak-time fares.

Not least when regular fares already got hiked by 9 per cent back in April.

It makes not a jot of sense to hit commuting Scots with a rail costs double whammy when we’re trying to get more people out of their cars and into trains.

Especially when this policy is working and getting us back closer to pre-pandemic passenger levels.

ScotRail is nationalised. The power is entirely in Holyrood’s hands.

Doubling fares for hard-working Scots who commute by rail would be two fingers up at them and two fingers up to the environment.

SNP ministers must urgently rethink this - and figure out a better plan.

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