Yousaf appoints first Cabinet
First Minister Humza Yousaf has appointed his first Cabinet in the job, securing top posts for his supporters.
Senior members of the SNP parliamentary group filed into Bute House on Wednesday to be told which jobs they will be given.
The announcement comes just hours after the First Minister was sworn in at the Court of Session.
Deputy First Minister Shona Robison, who was appointed to the deputy role on Tuesday, will also take on the finance portfolio, while Mr Yousaf’s campaign manager in the SNP leadership race, Neil Gray, will be elevated to Cabinet Secretary for the Wellbeing Economy, Fair Work and Energy.
Both were praised by Mr Yousaf in his acceptance speech after the announcement of his win on Monday.
Elsewhere, former net zero secretary Michael Matheson will replace the First Minister in the health portfolio, and former transport minister Jenny Gilruth will take over at education.
Mairi Gougeon and Angus Robertson will remain in their respective posts of Rural Affairs and Constitution.
This morning @HumzaYousaf was sworn in as First Minister at the Court of Session.
Shortly afterwards he arrived at Bute House with his family, where he will continue the process of appointing his Cabinet following the appointment of Shona Robison as Deputy First Minister. pic.twitter.com/YuswHXSzpI
— First Minister (@ScotGovFM) March 29, 2023
Shirley-Anne Somerville – previously education secretary – has been asked to take over from the Deputy First Minister in social justice, while former drugs minister Angela Constance will be elevated to Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Home Affairs.
Mairi McAllan will become the youngest member of the Cabinet, taking on Net Zero and Just Transition after being a junior minister in that portfolio under Nicola Sturgeon.
In a statement after the appointments, the First Minister said: “The Cabinet team I have unveiled reflects the priorities that we will pursue as a Government – including tackling child poverty, improving public services and building a fairer, greener economy.
“Ahead of my appointment as First Minister, I have committed myself to a radical, ambitious and progressive policy agenda for Scotland – and I know that this team is the right one to deliver it.”
Just two previous Cabinet ministers are leaving the top jobs as Mr Yousaf takes office – Kate Forbes, who turned down the job of rural affairs in favour of a return to the backbenches, and SNP depute leader Keith Brown.
It is unclear if Mr Brown – who served as justice secretary under Ms Sturgeon – will be given a junior ministerial post.
Mr Yousaf thanked the ministers leaving government, praising their handling of “many storms not of our making”, as well as hailing the leadership of Ms Sturgeon and former deputy first minister John Swinney.
He went on to say that the Government should “look as much as possible like the people we represent”, adding he is “pleased” that a record number of women will serve in Cabinet, “as well as a significant blend of younger and more experienced members”, but stressed “every single appointment has been made on merit”.
The offer to Ms Forbes – seen by many as a demotion – has endangered Mr Yousaf’s attempts to bring together a party that has felt the full impact of a bruising leadership contest, which he won with a slim 52% to 48% margin.
Of the Cabinet appointments, not one was an opponent of Mr Yousaf’s bid to be leader of the SNP.
But Ms Robison said Ms Forbes’ decision was based on wanting to get “out of the spotlight” after recently having a baby.
She was on maternity leave when Ms Sturgeon announced she would resign and throughout the leadership campaign, planning to return in the coming weeks.
Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland, Ms Robison said: “I understand that the discussion was very cordial and was very much centred on what Kate’s thoughts were, and I think she had reflected upon how hard the campaign had been for family life and her desire for a better work-life balance, and she decided that time out of the spotlight would be best to spend time with her family, which is understandable.”
The First Minister did consider Ms Forbes for other positions, Ms Robison said, but ultimately she made the decision to go to the backbenches.
In the hours before making the appointments, Mr Yousaf was sworn in at the Court of Session on Wednesday morning, making him the first person from an ethnic minority background to hold the post, as well as the youngest.
Wearing a traditional Pakistani shalwar kameez and watched by his family from the public gallery of Scotland’s highest court, Mr Yousaf took the three oaths of office, administered by the Lord President, Lord Carloway.