POLITICALLY the most interesting, and possibly the smartest, element of Nicola Sturgeon's first Programme for Government is the creation of commission to consider alternatives to the council tax.

In their 2011 manifesto, the SNP promised to bring forward proposals for a fairer system of local government finance within the lifetime of the present parliament. But the indications were nothing would be done until closer to the 2016 election.

For much of that time, there have been stories of painful cuts to council services, and local authorities will be quick to blame the council tax freeze, originally intended as a temporary measure but is now into its seventh year.

We have already heard a few. Plans in East Dunbartonshire, for example, to turn the heating down in schools as part of a drive to save £23million. Or moves to increase primary school class sizes in South Lanarkshire, saving £20m. From swingeing jobs cuts to municipal football pitches without white lines, the plight of local government has become an embarrassment. Now Ms Sturgeon can at least say work is beginning on the problem.

If council tax reform was the most interesting aspect of the programme, land reform will surely be the most controversial - but Ms Sturgeon may welcome a fight with the landed gentry.

Overall, with its array of commmissions and conventions, this did not look like the programme for government of an administration nearing the end of its time in office.

The new First Minister expects to be around in 2020.