New Scottish Government cabinet unveiled

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has handed responsibility for enhancing Scotland’s education system and improving opportunities for young people to John Swinney, her longest serving cabinet secretary.

Swinney, who served as Finance Secretary for nine years, becomes Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills and will continue as Deputy First Minister.

The new cabinet team also confirms the First Minister’s focus on the economy, with Derek Mackay appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution and Keith Brown taking up the newly created post of Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work.

The economy will also be a focus of Fergus Ewing’s remit as he takes up the post of Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity.

The environment and climate change will have a dedicated cabinet secretary for the first time, with Roseanna Cunningham’s appointment underlining the Scottish Government’s plans to further reduce carbon emissions, protect Scotland’s environment and take forward controversial work on land reform.

Shona Robison will continue as Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport to guide the ongoing integration of health and social care.

Michael Matheson will stay in his role of Cabinet Secretary for Justice.

There will also be continuity in culture and external affairs, where Fiona Hyslop will continuing to serve — but her remit will be widened with a new position of Cabinet Secretary Culture, Tourism and External Affairs.

Angela Constance will be the new Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities, charged with taking forward the implementation of new welfare powers being devolved to Scotland.

Sturgeon said: “The central focus of the Scottish Government I lead will be ensuring that our education system is world class and that every child in Scotland is given the opportunity to fulfil their potential, no matter their background.

“We have set out ambitious plans to close the attainment gap and widen access to higher and further education and I am absolutely delighted to confirm that John Swinney will take this programme forward as the new Cabinet Secretary for Education.

“John’s record is exemplary, overseeing a succession of balanced budgets as well as delivering the recent fiscal framework deal that will underpin the new powers being devolved to the Scottish parliament.

“His appointment to this crucial role demonstrates how important education is to my government.

“The new cabinet also reflects my focus on the economy, with three key appointments to implement our economic agenda.

“Derek Mackay will take up the post of Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution, where I am certain that, following his strong performance as transport minister, he will continue the excellent work of his predecessor in overseeing the introduction of new tax powers.

“The economy portfolio will be enhanced with a new post of Cabinet Secretary for Economy, Jobs and Fair Work to be filled by Keith Brown.

“He will build on his successful delivery of key infrastructure projects across Scotland and work intensively to secure investment into Scotland and support more people into work.

“And we will ensure that the importance of the rural economy is fully reflected in the Scottish Government, with the appointment of Fergus Ewing as Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, recognising the key challenges faced by the rural economy and the vital importance of transport and broadband links.

“Elsewhere, our public services will remain in excellent hands, with the reappointment of Shona Robison and Michael Matheson as cabinet secretaries for health and justice respectively.

“Both Shona and Michael have an excellent track record of delivery in these areas and are the best people to oversee our record levels of investment in the NHS and the protection of the police budget.

“Fiona Hyslop will continue her important work supporting Scotland’s creative and cultural industries as well as leading on the Scottish Government’s position on Europe.

“For the first time, her responsibilities will also extend to tourism, bringing together different aspects of Scotland’s presence in the world.

“Meanwhile, with the Scottish Parliament about to assume new powers over welfare and social security, I can announce the creation of a new role – that of Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities – to be taken up by Angela Constance.

“Finally, with climate change one of the defining challenges of our generation, I can confirm Roseanna Cunningham will take up the new post of Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

“As well as driving forward work to allow Scotland to meet its ambitious climate change targets, Roseanna will have responsibility for implementation of our radical land reform agenda.

“The Cabinet I have announced today will ensure our priorities of education and the economy are given fresh impetus; our public services are reformed and improved and we are able to respond to challenges such as climate change in the years to come.

“The new Scottish Government team has the right mixture of experience and fresh ideas and maintains the gender balance that I believe is important. It is the best team to take Scotland forward.”