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Forbes handed economy brief in low key reshuffle

John Swinney with Kate Forbes outside Bute House after the Cabinet announcement (pic: Terry Murden)

Kate Forbes has been appointed Deputy First Minister and will take on the Economy portfolio in a low key reshuffle announced by new First Minister John Swinney.

Describing her appointment as a ‘moment of extraordinary privilege’, Ms Forbes will replace Shona Robison as Mr Swinney’s deputy and will carve out the economy brief from Mairi McAllan who retains the Net Zero and Energy portfolios.

The appointment, which includes gaelic responsibilities, means an end to Ms Forbes’ year-long exile from government after being sidelined following her failed leadership contest with Humza Yousaf.

With these exceptions, Mr Swinney’s new Cabinet is the same as the last one, with the addition of Ms Forbes.

The First Minister said:  “I am very pleased to appoint Kate as Deputy First Minister and look forward to working with her in this new government.

“She is an immensely talented politician, and her new role will prove critical as we focus on our key commitments of eradicating child poverty, investing in public services and supporting economic growth.”

Ms Forbes’ appointment as Deputy First Minister was predicted by Daily Business earlier this week and noted that Ms Robison did not attend either Mr Swinney’s leadership launch or acceptance speech.

Swinney’s first Cabinet, back row: Fiona Hyslop, Angela Constance, Jenny Gilruth, Shirley-Anne Somerville, Mairi Gougeon; Middle row: Angus Robertson, Mairi McAllan, Shona Robison, Neil Gray; Front row: Kate Forbes, John Swinney (pic: Terry Murden)

Ms Forbes, said: “I am deeply honoured to accept John’s invitation to be his Deputy First Minister.

“This is a moment of extraordinary privilege for me. Having previously served in Cabinet, I know the duty that all Ministers have to reflect the government’s priorities and the missions that drive them.

“I look forward to working with John and Cabinet colleagues, delivering for the people of Scotland and building a better country.” 

Ms Forbes has been MSP for the Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch constituency since the 2016 Scottish Parliament election. She served as the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy from 2020 to 2023 and became the first Cabinet Secretary to take maternity leave in 2022. 

A government statement said Shona Robison had “chosen to step down” as Deputy First Minister and formally tendered her resignation to the First Minister.

Shona Robison will stay on as Finance Secretary

Ms Robison was appointed to the role in March 2023 at the same time as taking up the position of Cabinet Secretary for Finance.

In a letter to Ms Robison, the First Minister said: “Thank you for your kind words and also for being so open and thoughtful with me during our conversation last week. I deeply appreciate your willingness to help the process of taking forward our party and our government by offering to step aside from the role of Deputy First Minister.

“It is a role you have carried out well and with dedication, as you have in all your roles in government.

“I thought hard about your offer because I recognise it as an act of selfless generosity. I agree with you that it will help me create the inclusive and unified team that is needed to take Scotland forward. 

“I have made clear that my government will deliver progressive policies that will eradiate child poverty, improve the NHS, build the economy and create jobs, and take action on the climate emergency. I am delighted you have agreed to continue in a vital and senior role in Cabinet to stand alongside me in achieving that vision.

“I know I will be able to rely on your counsel and advice in the future and look forward to working with you for the future of Scotland.”

The new Cabinet

John Swinney First Minister

Kate Forbes Deputy First Minister, with Economy and responsibility for Gaelic

Shona Robison remains in Cabinet with responsibility for Finance and Local Government

Neil Gray remains Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care

Jenny Gilruth remains Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

Màiri McAllan remains Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy

Fiona Hyslop remains Cabinet Secretary for Transport

Mairi Gougeon remains Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands

Angus Robertson remains Cabinet Secretary for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture

Shirley-Anne Somerville remains Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice

Angela Constance remains Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs.

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