Nicola Sturgeon

Sturgeon re-tools the Scottish Cabinet

This week the Scottish Parliament got back to business after the fairly uneventful election earlier in the month.

Nicola Sturgeon was re-elected First Minister, without any fuss, and on Wednesday reshuffled her Cabinet and Ministerial teams giving us a good indication of her priorities for the next term.

The theme of the reshuffle was “opportunity” and the big headline was John Swinney moving from Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth to Education.

The First Minster had already signalled her intention to break up the Finance and Economy portfolio into separate cabinet level appointments to reflect the Scottish Parliament’s new tax powers post Scotland Bill, and the challenges facing the economy.

Those slots were filled with promotions for 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.

Moving John Swinney serves the dual benefit of having the most component Cabinet Secretary in charge of driving forward the SNP’s education agenda, a personal and political priority of the FM. Also moving Angela Constance, a close ally of the First Minister, who’d been struggling in the face of a potential teacher strike, and the ongoing sore of Universities and Colleges suffering from budget cuts.

Another change of note was bringing in Roseanna Cunningham at Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform and moving Fergus Ewing to Rural Economy and Connectivity – which suggest fracking will certainly now take a back seat during this term.

The full list of Cabinet roles and responsibilities is here.

Down the food-chain in the Minister appointments Humza Yousaf is the rising star, and will likely be knocking at the door of the cabinet at the next reshuffle as he moves to become the Minister for Transport and the Islands – the last two occupants of that role now sit in cabinet so it is seen as a key training ground.

There were also ministerial appointments for new MSP Jeane Freeman, a former Labour Special Advisor to Jack McConnell, and returning MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville. Both will be expected to shine in the new roles.

Full list of Ministerial appointments is here.

Ruth Davidson also announced her new Shadow Cabinet with many of her new cohort of MSP’s finding berths in her top team.

The key one to watch will be Adam Tomkins who comes in as Shadow Cabinet Secretary for communities, social security, the constitution and equalities.

Full details on the shadow cabinet is here.

Overall the Cabinet is re-tooled and probably stronger for the term ahead – and very much now Team Sturgeon. But with the First Minister facing big challenges in closing the attainment gap, giving the Scottish economy fresh impetus and using the new powers of the Parliament wisely she knows the Scottish people will be expecting big things in this the SNP’s third term of office.

Written By

Gregor Poynton