Theme: Parties & Elections | Content Type: Journal article

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From Donald Dewar to Humza Yousaf: The Role of Scotland's First Ministers and the Importance of Political Leadership

Gerry Hassan



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The establishment of the Scottish Parliament created new institutions and a political environment which has had lasting implications for Scottish and UK politics, including furthering the rise of the Scottish National Party and the independence question. One central element of this new terrain has been the emergence of the Scottish government and the post of First Minister of Scotland. The latter, the most prominent devolved political position in Scotland, has so far been subjected to little detailed analysis.

Drawing on a wide array of material, research and interviews with key individuals, this article explores four aspects: first, the nature of the office of first minister; second, how it has evolved over the past quarter century; third, what various post-holders have brought to the role; and finally, how they have been influenced by wider contextual factors such as the changing dynamics of party support, electoral competition and intra-party considerations. The article offers some provisional conclusions about the changing nature of political leadership and the interplay between institutional factors, public opinion and the role of the individual political actors in the twenty-first century, which has relevance not just for Scotland but further afield.

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Volume 94, Issue 4

Latest Journal Issue

Volume 94, Issue 4

Includes a collection on Scottish Politics After Sturgeon, edited by Ben Jackson and Anna Killick. This features articles such as 'Independence is not Going Away: The Importance of Education and Birth Cohorts' by Lindsay Paterson; 'Diary of an SNP First Minister: A Chronopolitics of Proximity and Priorities' by Hannah Graham; and 'Politics, the Constitution and the Independence Movement in Scotland since Devolution' by Malcolm Petrie. There are a wide range of other articles including 'Unlocking the Pensions Debate: The Origins and Future of the ‘Triple Lock’ by Jonathan Portes and 'The Politics of England: National Identities and Political Englishness' by John Denham and Lawrence Mckay. Finally, there is a selection of book reviews such as Branko Milanovic's review of Equality: The History of an Elusive Idea by Darrin M. McMahon, and Alexandre Leskanich's review of Cannibal Capitalism by Nancy Fraser.

Find out more about the latest issue of the journal