Nicola Sturgeon has said her new Cabinet will give Scotland a “serious Government for the serious times we face”, as she completed a major reshuffle of her front-bench team.
The First Minister had already announced that her deputy John Swinney was being moved from education – where his performance has come under fire – to the new role of Covid Recovery Secretary.
Shirley-Anne Somerville, who had previously held the social security brief, is the new Education Secretary – although her appointment had to be made via a Zoom call after it emerged a member of her family is self-isolating.
Humza Yousaf moves from justice to become the Health and Social Care Secretary – which will see him play a key role in tackling coronavirus and take on responsibility for work to set up a new National Care Service.
Angus Robertson, the former SNP Westminster leader who was elected as an MSP less than two weeks ago, goes straight into the Cabinet as the new Constitution Secretary – a post which had been held by Mike Russell before he stepped down from Holyrood.
Mr Robertson’s new portfolio will also include culture and external affairs, and will see him speak for the Scottish Government on issues including post-Brexit relations.
The First Minister unveiled her new team in a socially-distanced photocall outside Bute House, her official residence in Edinburgh.
Ms Sturgeon 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.”
With climate change taking centre stage as Glasgow prepares to host the global Cop26 summit, Ms Sturgeon has appointed Michael Matheson into the new post of Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport.
Mr Matheson, who had previously served as transport secretary, will now have responsibility across Scotland for efforts to deliver net-zero, working across the transport, environment and energy portfolios, as well as being involved in the delivery of Cop26 this November.
But while the issues of coronavirus and climate change are key, the First Minister also stressed Scotland should again have the “chance to choose its future” in a second independence referendum, insisting there is an “unquestionable democratic mandate for that”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “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.”
Mairi Gougeon, who served as rural affairs minister before becoming public health minister, is promoted to become Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands.
Both Keith Brown and Shona Robison are returned to the Cabinet, to serve as Justice Secretary and Social Justice, Housing and Local Government Secretary – with Ms Robison being given a focus on tackling child poverty in this role.
Kate Forbes remains at finance, with her brief expanded to include economic strategy, including the wellbeing economy, trade and inward investment, city and regional growth deals, enterprise and the digital economy.