It's better for the government that Stewart Stevenson has resigned, even if a lot of people out there - including me - thought it ridiculous to blame one man for the weather. The resignation letter said he had gone because of the failure to communicate with motorists, but we all know he's really gone because of his failure to communicate on Newsnight. As Iain MacWhirter said this morning on Newsweek Scotland, Stevenson just wasn't an "I feel your pain" sort of person. You can read his resignation letter and First Minister's acceptance here
The opposition will crow about getting a scalp - but may live to regret that. The resignation offers Alex Salmond the opportunity to replace an older, unmedia-friendly man with a bright young woman. Two candidates come to mind. Shirley-Anne Somerville and Angela Constance.
Somerville, who I believe is a new mother, is a politics and economics graduate who has worked in media relations for various organisations including the Royal College of Nursing. She's a member of Holyrood's Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change Committee and co-convenor of the cross party group on climate change, both of which fall into Stevenson's brief. (She has already commented on the resignation here) And she has done a great job of exposing the debacle of the Edinburgh trams. I cannot imagine her being caught out on Newsnight, where she is already a regular and confident performer. She is a member of Friends of the Earth and could get on swimmingly with the small Green Group in parliament, who, according to TwoDoctors, didn't find Stevenson particularly chummy. Somerville also has an interest in gender issues such as domestic violence and equal opportunities, which will help in terms of the female vote.
Angela Constance is also a young mother who worked as a social worker in the state hospital of Carstairs before entering politics. A Livingston councillor before she was elected to Holyrood in 2007, she has less parliamentary experience than Somerville but is highly regarded. She is a member of the Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee and lists her hobbies as jogging and running marathons. Either woman would be a breath of fresh air and give the team a better gender balance. One of the SNP's trump cards over the Labour opposition is the high quality of its front bench, something acknowledged by media commentators. Stevenson's difficulties offered the opposition an opportunity to undermine this widely held view. Now he's gone and a weak link has disappeared with him. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger.