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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.


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.

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