Sturgeon responds to criticism

Economy and finance will be split in new Cabinet

Sturgeon after electionNicola Sturgeon is to create separate finance and economy portfolios in the cabinet in response to the new tax powers and the challenges facing the economy.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney’s role in the last parliament will be split to create two Cabinet secretaries for  the economy and finance.

Ms Sturgeon said: “This is not a reflection on how these jobs have been done in the past, it’s a reflection of the challenges and opportunities we face in the future.

“The economic challenges, but also the recognition that we are going to be preparing for and then dealing with the introduction of new powers on tax and on welfare.”

The changes will be seen as a response to criticism over the government’s priorities and a need for a better engagement with business.

It is almost certain that Mr Swinney will retain the finance role, effectively becoming a Scottish Chancellor, while the economy brief is likely to go to Derek Mackay, Humza Yousaf or Keith Brown.

The First Minister said: “I intend to appoint a dedicated Cabinet Secretary for the economy. His or her time will be focussed entirely on supporting the economy and engaging intensively with business to make sure we are doing everything possible to stimulate growth, boost productivity and help and protect well paid jobs.

“There will also be for the first time a dedicated Finance Secretary responsible for the Scottish budget and for the introduction of the parliament’s new tax and welfare powers.”

Labour’s Iain Gray described the move as “common sense” and said he would be keen to see how she allocates other roles.

“Let’s see what she does with the other cabinet posts. Prior to the election we had an SNP government with more ministers and special advisors than any previous government, so let’s hope that she’s not just going to add even more on to that.”

Ms Sturgeon also wants to change the process of questioning ministers, saying she would appear before committees more regularly.

Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, David Lonsdale, said: “The First Minister is sending a strong and positive signal that she wants to prioritise the economy and private sector growth within her new government.

“These are testing times for retail. With half of VAT receipts being assigned to the Scottish Parliament our politicians at Holyrood have a direct stake in facilitating a flourishing retail industry.”

Stuart Mackinnon, a spokesman for the FSB in Scotland, said: “With a host of new tax powers coming to Holyrood and a slew of data suggesting Scotland’s economy is under-performing, the First Minister is absolutely right to separate the finance and economy briefs in her cabinet.

“We’re especially pleased that the economy portfolio will include speaking up for business. Smaller firms from Kirkcaldy to Kirkwall will be reassured that a political heavyweight is making the case for them at the seat of power in Scotland.”

> As I See It: Terry Murden says there now needs to be some rethinking over business proposals 

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