IN the month since my last article the most significant development in Scottish politics has been the First Minister’s resignation announcement which will have come as a surprise to many of us.

On a personal level, I wish Nicola Sturgeon well in whatever she chooses to do next.

Politics is gruelling - that is something I can attest to in my own humble way after seven years in office, and the last few years have been particularly challenging, not least because of the pandemic.

I don’t underestimate the physical and mental toll that the job has had on her - a point she acknowledged in her speech.

Contrary to popular belief, the First Minister isn’t resigning specifically over the Deposit Return Scheme, Gender Recognition Reform, the ferries fiasco, or any other single issue for that matter, but what is clear is that whoever takes over has a very large to-do list and I pledge to work constructively in the best interests of North Ayrshire, and Scotland as a whole, as I have always done.

I wish the next First Minister well but, in my view, they need to move beyond constitutional matters and start dealing with the important day-to-day issues facing Scotland using the extensive powers they have at their disposal.

A good place to start would be prioritising local healthcare.

A&E waiting times in NHS Ayrshire and Arran, for example, remain unacceptably high and the SNP’s own target of 95 per cent of patients being seen within four hours hasn’t been achieved since July 2020.

That’s before we even start considering the backlog of operations, the inability of local residents to get a GP appointment, or the severe lack of dental practices taking on new patients.

As my party’s Shadow Justice spokesman, I will also be pushing for the new First Minister to prioritise crime and justice, not least because of the neglect that the SNP Government have given this policy area since 2007.

Barely a week goes by when there isn’t another let down: in the past fortnight we have seen new statistics showing that the number of special police constables in Ayrshire has fallen by almost a third, multiple break-ins and thefts reported in local media, prisoners released by accident (again!) and 30 sex offenders go missing and flee abroad.

The bigger picture also shows violent crime, domestic abuse and online child grooming all at, or near, all-time highs, whilst the number of police officers is near an all-time low.

One would think that rising crime demands more police officers and resources for our justice sector, however the SNP Government have consistently done exactly the opposite…

Right now, we don’t know who the next First Minister will be, what their priorities are or whether they will put the issues I have mentioned above ahead of constitutional division and separation.

North Ayrshire is facing challenges like never before and it’s imperative that whoever does take over governs in the interests of all of Scotland and brings us together, as much as possible, in the process.