First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has tasked Michael Matheson with progressing Scotland’s carbon net zero action and overseeing the successful delivery of COP26 in Glasgow this coming November.
Matheson takes on the new role as Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport.
It brings together cross government responsibility for coordination of Net Zero policy, encompassing transport, environmental protection, energy and COP26 delivery making it one of the most significant appointments of government.
In practice it will mean other departments will have to benchmark their activities against the Net Zero policies being laid down by his office.
Kate Forbes retains her position as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy, including responsibility for the Scottish Budget, but as had been expected sees her responsibilities expanded.
The MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch will also take on responsibility for what has been characterised as ‘the wellbeing economy’.
Fiscal policy and taxation, economic strategy, , trade and inward investment, city and regional growth deals, enterprise and the digital economy also now fall to her office.
Humza Yousaf becomes Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care, with responsibility for the NHS, including ongoing health service remobilisation as Scotland looks to move out of the pandemic.
Mr Yousaf is also to drive forward a commitment to establish a National Care Service and suggesting he will work closely with Forbes in particular on funding.
“My Cabinet team combines experience with new arrivals and fresh faces, giving us the range and depth of talent we need to tackle the pressing issues we need to tackle, from covid to climate change.”Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister
This also dovetails the work of Shirley-Anne Somerville who becomes Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, taking forward work on Covid recovery within the education system, as well as continuing the Government’s mission to further close the attainment gap.
Keith Brown, meanwhile, becomes the new Cabinet Secretary for Justice, with responsibility for reform of the justice system as well as work to reduce reoffending.
It comes at a time when pressure is being applied over the resourcing of Police Scotland, especially ahead of COP26 where question will undoubtedly be asked over the handling and cost of staging such a major event in Glasgow.
Shona Robison has been appointed as Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, tasked with reducing child poverty as well as work to deliver 100,000 affordable homes.
The brief for Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands goes to Mairi Gougeon, Fergus Ewing as predicted leaving the post.
Her role includes responsibility for agriculture, food and drink policy, fisheries and aquaculture as well as cross-government coordination of policies for island communities.
It remains unclear how work around forestry in particular may be included in conversations with the new climate secretary with regards to his Net Zero brief.
Angus Robertson meantime is appointed as Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture where he will take on constitutional policy, cross-government coordination of European and wider external relations, including post-Brexit relations – including of course any Scottish independence referendum.
Announcing her Cabinet, the First Minister said: “I’m delighted to announce the Scottish Government’s new Cabinet team. Scotland needs a serious Government for the serious times we face as a nation, and in the top level ministerial line-up I have announced today we have exactly that.
“It is a Government which will drive Scotland forward, as we look to build a just, fair and sustainable recovery from the Covid pandemic.
“My Cabinet team combines experience with new arrivals and fresh faces, giving us the range and depth of talent we need to tackle the pressing issues we need to tackle, from covid to climate change.
“This term of office is unquestionably the most important one the nation has faced since devolution, more than 20 years ago. We are dealing with the joint challenges of a global pandemic and recovery from it, the ongoing tests posed by Brexit and the urgent, pressing need to take forward our net zero agenda as part of the global efforts to secure a greener future.
“The magnitude of these challenges is clear, but now is not a moment to shirk from those tasks but to embrace them. In the next five years, we have a chance to shape Scotland permanently for the better, creating a healthier, happier, fairer, more prosperous and more sustainable country for everyone who calls Scotland home, establishing a positive legacy for future generations.
“The immediate challenge is the focus on recovery and the part that all policy portfolios can play in that. But, as I have made clear, when the crisis is over and the time is right, Scotland must and will have the chance to choose its future in line with the unquestionable democratic mandate for that choice.”
Image Credits: Ulmus Media & The Scottish Government