SNP MSP Kate Forbes has criticised Holyrood policy making for ignoring the needs of the Highlands and islands.
The former finance secretary pointed to policies on education and highly protected marine areas as examples of where the government failed to understand unique needs of the area.
Ms Forbes – who recently revealed her struggle with post-natal depression in an interview with the Press and Journal – also defended her MSP colleague Fergus Ewing. He was hit with a week-long suspension from the SNP after a series of rebellions last week.
Her criticism comes as the Scottish Government cabinet meets in Inveraray to hear the concerns of local people in rural west Scotland.
First Minister Humza Yousaf took his top ministers to the event at Inveraray Parish Church.
On the same morning, Ms Forbes criticised policy-making in Edinburgh.
She drew a link between proposals to ban fishing in some areas, with knock-on community harm such as depopulation and school closure.
“I think that’s why policy issues in the Highlands go straight to the heart perhaps faster than anywhere else,” she said.
“Education in other parts of Scotland may be more of an intellectual question. In the Highlands it’s about their future, it’s about community; it’s about families.”
Attainment gap approach ‘puts working class at disadvantage’
Former first minister Nicola Sturgeon, appointed Ms Forbes to the post of finance secretary, said closing the poverty-related gap in education outcomes was her government’s “defining mission”.
Ms Forbes criticised a “voguish attitude” about “making it easier for everyone” by removing algebra from the curriculum and dismantling the exams system.
This approach actually puts working class children at a disadvantage, she told The Herald.
But this can put working-class children at further disadvantage when they need to compete for jobs and university places.
She said: “There’s no reason why children irrespective of their background can’t reach the same levels.
“I think there’s a risk in our public discourse about the attainment gap; about thinking we need to make education simpler and easier in order to ensure everyone is achieving the same.
“The opposite is true. Our education system should be about hard work and based on aspiration and ambition. It should realise that we are competing with India; with Japan; with Denmark.
“Until you do that, I don’t think you can close the attainment gap. It’s the only route out of poverty that works.”
On her friend Mr Ewing, the MSP for Inverness and Nairn, she explained why it was important to show support in the SNP group.
“Fergus is a living legend throughout the Highlands and Islands,” she said.
“He always puts the needs of these communities first. My concern was that he didn’t stand alone going in or leaving that room.
“Our parliamentary group is a family and you must have each other’s backs. And when you face difficult circumstances you need your troops around you.”