Kate Forbes appointed Scotland's first female finance secretary

Severin Carrell Scotland editor
Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Nicola Sturgeon has appointed Kate Forbes as Scotland’s first female finance secretary in a mini-reshuffle forced by the abrupt resignation of Derek Mackay earlier this month.

Forbes was appointed to the post 11 days after being asked to present the Scottish government’s draft budget for 2020 with about 14 hours’ notice, after Mackay’s sudden resignation following allegations he had repeatedly texted a 16-year-old boy.

A Gaelic speaker, Forbes is one of the Scottish parliament’s newest MSPs, arriving at Holyrood in 2016. At 29, she is thought to be the youngest cabinet secretary in the devolved administration’s 20-year history.

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With the SNP running a minority government, she now has to negotiate a deal with at least one other party to ensure the budget is passed on 5 March.

Despite strong pressure to resign as an MSP, including from within the SNP, Mackay is reportedly preparing to return to Holyrood while the party considers his future.

Sturgeon appointed Ben Macpherson, another rising star in the Scottish National party’s ranks, who became an MSP in 2016, as Forbes’s replacement as public finance minister, with responsibility for migration and climate policy.

Another recent arrival, Jenny Gilruth, has been made minister of Europe and international development in her first government appointment.

Gilruth will support Mike Russell, the veteran cabinet secretary for the constitution and European affairs, whose brief has been expanded to include external affairs.

Fiona Hyslop, who has held ministerial posts since the SNP first won power in 2007, has been moved to become cabinet secretary for economy, fair work and culture, putting economic policy in the hands of two women for the first time.

Fergus Ewing, another veteran SNP figure and a member of the Ewing political dynasty, has been given additional responsibility in the cabinet for tourism as well as being cabinet secretary for the rural economy.

Sturgeon said the appointments meant seven out of her 12 cabinet members were women, with a fully gender-balanced government team.

“These appointments bring new talent into government and deliver a real focus, not only on driving forward our economy, but also on addressing the challenges of Brexit, increasing our population and ending Scotland’s contribution to the climate crisis,” she said.