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Hyslop, Ewing out, Swinney switched to Covid role

John Swinney

John Swinney: priorities

Fiona Hyslop and Fergus Ewing, two of the Scottish Government’s longest serving ministers, are to leave government.

They are stepping down from ministerial office ahead of the First Minister’s appointment of a new Cabinet and junior ministerial line-up later today. 

Their departure follows the removal of Education Secretary John Swinney who is to take up a new post in the Cabinet overseeing the recovery from the Covid pandemic.

Mr Swinney, who has held the schools portfolio since 2016, has been re-appointed as deputy First Minister. He took up the position as Ms Sturgeon’s second in command in 2014.

His departure from the education brief follows a torrid period of failures over the handling of exams and accusations of missed targets.

In his new role he will take responsibility for driving cross government action on Covid recovery and will chair a cross-party steering group which is expected to hold its first meeting next week.

Mr Swinney will also take the lead on inter-governmental relations, public service reform, including within government, and the delivery of a number of transformational projects across government and wider society.

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This includes the incorporation of the UN Human Rights treaties and the delivery of The Promise to care experienced young people.

He will be supported by the Minister for Parliamentary Business.

Further cabinet and ministerial appointments will be made on Wednesday.

Ms Sturgeon also needs to find replacements for four cabinet secretaries who retired ahead of the election: Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, Constitution Secretary Mike Russell, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell.

Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse lost his seat.

It is thought there will be a prominent role in Cabinet for Ivan McKee who was Minister for Trade, Innovation and Public Finance in the last parliament.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Our first priority as a government is to lead the country through the pandemic and into a recovery that supports our NHS, protects and creates jobs, backs our young people and contributes to our ambition to be a net zero nation.

“I want to pay tribute to the work of both Fiona Hyslop and Fergus Ewing and to thank them for their unstinting public service over many years.

“Fiona has served in Cabinet since 2007, firstly as Education Secretary, then as Culture and External Affairs Secretary before taking on the Economy and Fair Work portfolio.

“Her tenure in the External Affairs brief saw Fiona oversee the expansion of the Scottish Government’s international footprint, giving our country a higher profile than it has ever had before on the global stage, and that is a legacy which she can and should be justly proud of.

“Fergus has also been part of the ministerial team since 2007, and has brought diligence and endeavour to all of the jobs he has held. In particular, he has worked tirelessly with and on behalf of Scotland’s rural sector over the past five years since the Brexit vote, fighting their corner at every turn.

“Fergus has been a champion for Scotland’s farmers and crofters during one of the most difficult, challenging and uncertain periods our agricultural sector has ever faced, and he has the gratitude of many in the industry for his efforts to protect their interests.

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“I want to offer my sincere thanks to Fiona and Fergus for their service, and wish them well as they continue to serve their constituents in the new Parliament.” 

Last night, Ms Sturgeon announced Mr Swinney’s new role.

“Appointing John Swinney to drive cross government work on Covid recovery is a key step in getting Scotland’s recovery off to the right start,” she said.

“How we begin our recovery is crucial to the kind of country we can become, and that means ensuring everyone, whether in government, the public sector, the business community or wider society is pulling in the same direction.”

Mr Swinney said: “Recovery in our schools, our health service, our economy and across our wider society is this government’s immediate priority and I am honoured to have been asked to lead that mission.

“I am determined that government will bring the same urgency that we applied to the actions we took to protect public health, to the actions we need to take to secure a fair and just recovery. 

“I will be bringing opposition parties together next week to hear their contributions and to set out how I believe we can all work together to secure a strong recovery.

“As we recover we must also remember our commitments to improve the lives of people across our society and it is a privilege to continue to lead the work across government to deliver on the incorporation of UN charters and to deliver The Promise for our care experienced young people.”



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