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Jeane Freeman to step down at 2021 Scottish election

Image credit: Scottish Government

Jeane Freeman to step down at 2021 Scottish election

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has announced she will not seek re-election at the 2021 Holyrood election.

Freeman, MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley, made the announcement during a constituency association meeting on Monday evening, citing her age as a factor in her decision.

"After very careful thought I have decided not to stand for re-selection as the SNP candidate for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections," she said, in a statement.

"It has been a real privilege and pleasure to represent the Ayrshire I grew up in and which in so many ways, made me who I am today.  I have also been privileged to hold two ministerial offices in the Scottish Government in that time, initially charged with setting up Scotland’s first social security service and now as Cabinet Secretary for Health. 

"In Government and as a local MSP for a great constituency, I have learned a great deal and have had the opportunity to work with very many talented, committed and compassionate people. 

"I will be 67 later this year and 72 by the end of the next parliamentary term and while I have a great deal of energy left and more I want to do, I think it is the right time for me to stand aside and let another take forward the work as an MSP for this constituency. Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is a beautiful part of our country and it is full of talented, enterprising and hard working people. It will be an honour for whoever wins the constituency seat, as it has been for me.

"I have been hugely supported by SNP members in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley and I am grateful to them all. I owe a particular debt to my hardworking and excellent constituency staff, Tracy, Paul and Jayde without whom I literally couldn’t have done the job.

"In the months ahead I will continue my focus on the work we need to do as a country to meet the challenges facing us all in dealing with COVID-19, supporting our NHS and social care workers, and in re-mobilising our NHS and social care services to the greatest extent possible."

She also noted her support for Scottish independence in the statement.

"I remain even firmer in my conviction that the right future for the people of this constituency and of Scotland is one where we have all the democratic and decision-making powers of a normal country. 

"Securing independence by securing the right of people in Scotland to choose their own future will allow us to build on the progressive work of the SNP government since 2007 and fulfil the potential of this place and this country to build the prosperous, inclusive and progressive future we want for all of us and for future generations."
 
Freeman is the fourth Scottish Government cabinet secretary to announce an intention to step down from the Scottish Parliament, after environment secretary Roseanna Cunningham, constitution secretary Mike Russell and communities secretary Aileen Campbell all announced their exits.

She was elected to the parliament in 2016 and severed as Minister for Social Security from May 2016 to June 2018. She was appointed Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport in 2018 after a cabinet reshuffle.

Since then she has had a number of major crises in the NHS to deal with, from financing to staffing, as well as scandals around hospital builds and contaminated water inside hospital wards linked to a number of deaths, including those of two children.

This year Freeman, as health secretary, has been at the fore of dealing with Scotland’s response to the biggest global health crisis in a century. And while there has been much praise for the way the NHS has coped with the pandemic, there has also been criticism for the way elderly people were discharged from hospitals into care homes without being tested for the virus, which will no doubt become a central feature of any public inquiry into how the Scottish Government handled COVID-19.

There have now been 12 SNP MSPs who have announced their departure from Holyrood next year. The SNP is expected to use all women shortlists to choose candidates in some, if not all, of the seats where a current SNP MSP is standing down, to address unequal representation as just 35 per cent of its MSPs are women.

Full list of SNP MSPs departing next year:

Jeane Freeman

Linda Fabiani

Mike Russell

Roseanna Cunningham

Alex Neil

Gil Paterson

Stewart Stevenson

Gail Ross

Bruce Crawford

Richard Lyle

Angus MacDonald

Aileen Campbell

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Health

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