Oh I know how ridiculous the concept is. We can agree on that. There are after all, hundreds of reasons why Nicola is and I’m not. I can list more than you can. But when you’re finished chuckling at the very idea, indulge me.
Because if it was me, I’d kinda have done all that she is doing but I’d be planning more of it. And sometimes a little unwarranted, unsought advice is a good thing.
As the first female First Minister, what to wear and how to look is going to be a thing, no matter how much we want it to be otherwise. So yes, embrace it. Turn it into part of your story, of who you are, what matters to you and how you are going to be. Absolutely champion Scottish designers for clothes and jewellery. Make a point of visiting local shops and crafts when out and about round Scotland. Just don’t do handbags, for obvious reasons.
In fact, become Scotland’s champion in all the things that do matter to you. Turn the role into what you want it to be, think it should be in 21st Century Scotland. Promoting design and local produce could become something you do – pick two of the areas you intend to visit in Scotland in a year, and get Visit Scotland and Scottish Enterprise telt. They should do an expo of all things local for when the Cabinet comes to town. Even better, if some visits could be timed to coincide with local book festivals and you could get to open it or chair something or share your own favourite books or similar. Championing local enterprise, talent and activity while getting to indulge in one of your own passions. You’re allowed to actually enjoy being First Minister, no matter how often the civil servants tell you otherwise.
I’d want to be an accessible First Minister too. Ra people’s First Minister, that’s what I’d be looking to do. There are things of state that need to be done but get yourself a Depute with whom you can share the stuff that is more duty than pleasure. The Queen has all these Lord Lieutenants littered all over the country. And Deputies. I’d be seeing if some of them couldn’t be more usefully deployed on Scotland duty.
And think about where you do want to spend time and who and how you want to engage with folk. Presenting cups and trophies at sporting fixtures? Find a Sports Minister who can and will. But pitch up with a wee New Year’s message from the stage of proceedings in Glasgow or Edinburgh. Go to book festivals in the summer. Make a list of what you like doing and tell them that’s what you’d like to be doing, as close to ra people as possible.
Otherwise, keep doing your own tweets. Once a month, walk from Bute House up to St Andrew’s House. Make time to stop and say hello to folk. Once a month too, jump on a bus to do the journey. Get the train from Glasgow to Edinburgh once a month. The security will tell you why you really shouldn’t do it. Tough, it’s their job to figure out how you can do it safely. But also you are entitled to a bit of luxury and some trappings that go with the office. No one (except Paul Hutcheon) expects you to stay in Travel Lodges while you are abroad. If you are working 18 hour days, you are allowed to have someone drive you home and back again in the morning. And folk to look after you. Running a country is a big job – sell that before the carping starts about what you spend money on or how you do it or spend your time. Publish your engagements as soon as possible after the fact. Publicise as many as you can beforehand and who is involved and why.
Apparently, you’re not keen on moving into Bute House permanently. Home is after all home. So turn it into ra People’s Palace: make it accessible and available too. Offer up its facilities on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day for one of the many charities working with homeless people. Do more receptions from it for things you like and want to champion and be open about it. Get the SpADs to identify a theme day for each month of the year – Mother’s Day (March); World Aids Day (December); and so on, and turn Bute House into the centre of commemoration, throwing open the doors. And four times a year, fill it with children – an Easter egg hunt; a Christmas party. Make sure everyone knows this wee Georgian hoose belongs to them and is shared with the nation.
As for the SpADs, well this is where you have to live the narrative you’re weaving, not just wear it. If SNP policy now supports 40% of women appointments to boards, then you know what you gotta do. There is a perceived wisdom that no one who wants a life should apply. I’d change that. I’d create a job share part time role for two folk with family or caring responsibilities: their life experience would be well worth it. And in keeping with the new, even bigger tent approach of the SNP, I’d think about offering a SpAD role to someone outside the SNP. A Green even. Not that the roles ever were for party folk, it’s just how they’ve been allowed to develop.
The same applies to the Cabinet. It’s a tough one. You don’t want to tip everyone out for a whole host of reasons but you need to effect enough change to make it your own. To signal even more emphatically that the Salmond Generation has had its time. Apart from yourself of course. But time for you to bring on a new generation of leaders in the SNP by giving them rungs of responsibility. Encourage one or two of the old guard who’ve been warming Cabinet seats since 2007 to jump before pushed.
And of course, 40% women. I’d also be cultivating a support network of women out there who can be relied upon to have your back when the unnamed sources start their sniping and carping. As they will. Because you’re a woman. And they think that makes you weaker. And fair game. In a way, they’d never dream of doing if it was still Alex Salmond.
You are, after all, entering what has been almost exclusively a man’s world and game. If it were me, I’d be making the role into what I want it to be, not what I’m told it has to be.
Own it. Rock it. Become a 21st Century leader for a 21st Century country.
Just don’t wear those killer heels everyday, you’ll ruin your feet.