New Scottish Government welfare, local government and housing ministers chosen
The three new ministers with responsibility for local government and communities all have a background in local government in Scotland.
Angela Constance was appointed as cabinet secretary for communities, social security and equalities. She was cabinet secretary for education in the last parliament, but has a background in local authorities, both as a social worker and mental health officer and as a councillor for West Lothian Council. She takes over from Alex Neil.
Former Scottish Parliament Local Government and Regeneration Committee convener, Kevin Stewart, has been appointed as minister for local government and housing. Before becoming an MSP, Stewart was a councillor on Aberdeen City Council for eleven years and served as depute leader.
In the last parliament local government and housing were two separate ministerial roles, with local government and community empowerment being covered by Marco Biagi and housing by Margaret Burgess. Both Biagi and Burgess stood down at this election.
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With the new welfare powers coming to the Scottish Parliament in this parliamentary term, a new minister for social security has been created. Jeane Freeman, a new MSP with a background in criminal justice and rehabilitation of offenders takes on this role.
Although not directly responsible for local government, the appointment of Derek Mackay is also significant in his new role a cabinet secretary for finance because of the ongoing tension over local government finance.
Mackay, the minster for transport and islands in the last parliament and before that the minister for local government and planning, is likely to be a popular choice, with his background in local government.
He was elected to Renfrewshire Council in 1999 at the age of 21 and won three successive ward elections to become the leader of Renfrewshire Council in 2007.
Mackay led the SNP group at COSLA between 2009 and 2011.
Commenting on the appointment of Kevin Stewart as local government and housing minister, Graeme Brown, Director of Shelter Scotland, said: “We congratulate Kevin Stewart MSP on his appointment as the Minister for Local Government and Housing and look forward to working with him to build on the good work already achieved during the last parliament.”
He said the appointment came at a time when the housing crisis is “tightening its grip on Scotland’s families and individuals”, with 150,000 households across Scotland waiting for a home and one in four of those who have a home worried about keeping the roof over their head.
“It is a time of real opportunity for the minister to meaningfully address Scotland’s failing housing system, starting with delivering a step change in affordable housing supply, with research showing we need 60,000 affordable homes over the lifetime of this parliament.
“Now is also the time for a renewed commitment to tackling the root cause of homelessness with the delivery of a National Homelessness Strategy for Scotland that delivers better housing and support for the most vulnerable,” he said.
However, Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe was less positive about the choice of Kevin Stewart, calling him “the last person COSLA would have wanted as local government minister”, adding, “He is no friend of local government and neither is the SNP manifesto”.
Ruth Davidson also announced her Conservative shadow cabinet this week, with new MSP Adam Tomkins, a professor of public law at Glasgow University, appointed shadow cabinet secretary for communities, social security, the constitution and equalities.