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Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman with her partner Susan Stewart, who backs her decision all the way.

By Bill Heaney

The Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has shocked fellow members of the Scottish Parliament by announcing her decision not to stand for the SNP  at next year’s Holyrood elections.

And set off speculation amongst friends about how Jeane and her partner, Susan Stewart, who is a communications guru for the Open University, will spend the rest of their lives together away from Holyrood.

Susan Stewart told social media: “So, as news is breaking that the wee yin is standing down next year, want to say how very proud I am of her.“She will be 67 next month, [and] would be 72 by end of next parliament … time for a break.

“And this has been a helluva an unexpectedly hard shift.

“She’s still got seven months to go and i expect it will remain unrelenting. But, personally, looking forward to next April!! Love you Jeane Freeman.”

The “middle-aged” lovebirds will be taking their minds off Covid-19 and the constant sniping about care homes plus Lord Brodie’s report from the inquiry into the Health Board shambles that has led to deaths at the £842 million Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

They have decided that cats are the way to contentment at their love nest on Loch Longside in Argyll.

How do we know this?

Susan posted this on her Facebook page at the beginning of August:

“CHUMS: if, hypothetically, two middle-aged lesbians were going to adopt two wee black and white rescue kittens (sisters) what might you name them?  Tristan and Isolde is, apparently, out, and other runners and riders are: Franny and Zooey; Parker and Plath; Virginia and Vita: Grace and Frankie: Scout and Gem and Thelma and Louise…… hypothetical new mums will not be bound by results here and have until beginning of September. #excited (their mum is jet black and reminds us of Tosca).”

So, that’s another What’s in a Name? competition for readers of The Democrat along with naming the streets at Queen’s Quay in Clydebank.

Announcing her decision to her constituency association on Monday evening Ms Freeman said: “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 added: “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, who was formerly a Labour special adviser when Jack McConnell was First Minister,  has been Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport since 2018 having been elected in 2016 and was a central figure in the Scottish Government’s Covid-19 response.

She becomes the 12th SNP MSP who has announced their departure from Holyrood next year.

Taking to social media John Swinney wrote: Very sorry to hear this news from @JeaneF1MSP – a principled Minister who has given extraordinary commitment and leadership in all that she has done especially in social security and health. All good wishes for the future.”

Stewart McDonald MP paid tribute to the work carried out by the Health Secretary tweeting: “Sorry to hear that @JeaneF1MSP is standing down. Jeane did incredible work establishing Scotland’s first social security system and has given real leadership throughout the coronavirus pandemic as health secretary. I’m sure she still has a big role in Scotland’s future.”

There has been nothing on social media so far from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

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