The overflowing in-tray facing Scotland’s new First Minister

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Running a country is a big job – and Scotland’s new First Minister Humza Yousaf will come into the post with an in-tray that is already bulging.

Top of his to-do list will be reuniting a party which has been rocked by a leadership election that even Nicola Sturgeon has described as being “somewhat fractious”.

The candidates clashed repeatedly throughout the campaign, but now need to find a way to work together.

One of the initial tasks for the new First Minister will be to appoint his cabinet – and with Deputy First Minister John Swinney stepping down alongside Ms Sturgeon, big changes are inevitable.

Humza Yousaf went up against Kate Forbes, centre, and Ash Regan in the SDNP leadership contest (Andy Buchanan/PA)

He will have to pick a replacement as health secretary, a tough job given his own record in the post has come under fire – both from Ms Forbes herself and opposition politicians who have branded him the worst health secretary since devolution, with NHS waiting times growing and delayed discharges increasing under his stewardship.

Tackling the problems faced by a health service still recovering from the pandemic will certainly be high on the to-do list for Scotland’s new First Minister.

Nicola Sturgeon
Nicola Sturgeon received a standing ovation as she left the Holyrood chamber following her last session of First Minister’s Questions (Jane Barlow/PA)

On Thursday, Mr Yousaf will have his first session of First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood – facing a grilling from Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross and his Labour counterpart Anas Sarwar.

The thorny issue of gender recognition reform, and whether the Scottish Government should mount a legal challenge to the UK Government’s decision to block legislation passed by Holyrood, will also have to be considered with priority – and is one that the new First Minister has said he will pursue in court, unless advised otherwise by his legal team.

There will also be key party business for the new leader of the SNP to take care of.

Peter Murrell, who is married to Nicola Sturgeon, quit his role as SNP chief executive during the leadership campaign (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The mishandling of the situation – with the party initially having rubbished reports its membership had fallen by this much – saw both SNP communications chief Murray Foote and long-standing chief executive Peter Murrell, who is Ms Sturgeon’s husband, both quit.

These will be key positions for the party to fill as it prepares to fight a Westminster general election, which is likely to take place next year.

Work will be needed to restore calm in the party after its first leadership election in almost 20 years left it in a “tremendous mess”, to quote Mike Russell, the SNP’s president who has stepped into the breach as interim chief executive.

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