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by Margaret Taylor
10 May 2024
Swinney to chair inaugural cabinet meeting as first minister

First Minister John Swinney will chair his first cabinet meeting today | Alamy

Swinney to chair inaugural cabinet meeting as first minister

John Swinney will today chair his first cabinet meeting since succeeding Humza Yousaf as first minister earlier this week.

Swinney, who was sworn in as first minister on Wednesday, has kept the government's top team largely unchanged aside from the appointment of former finance secretary Kate Forbes as deputy first minister and economy secretary.

Yousaf's deputy Shona Robison remains in cabinet as finance secretary while Mairi McAllan, who assumed responsibility for the economy after Neil Gray was moved to health earlier this year, has returned to her prior focus of net zero and energy.

Swinney will later visit St John’s Hospital in Livingston, the Levenmouth Rail Link in Fife and a vertical-farm company in Dundee, saying the visits are representative of areas his government will focus on.

"Today, my colleagues and I embark on a new chapter as we collectively work to build a better, brighter future for the people of Scotland," he said.

"It is my greatest honour to lead us forward on that journey – one that will drive economic growth, tackle the climate crisis and eradicate the scourge of child poverty in our country once and for all.

"I know our health service is operating under sustained pressure and I am absolutely committed to working with health boards to improve standards – starting with our recent £30m investment to drive down waiting times.

"We will also build on our investment and track record on major infrastructure projects. I'm pleased to also be able to visit one example of that record – the Levenmouth Rail Link, a line which will reconnect local communities for the first time in 50 years, and make a real contribution to the government’s net-zero transport ambitions.

"And I pledge that I will stand with Scotland's businesses, large and small, and do whatever I can to help them to grow, innovate, and boost our economy for the benefit of those who live here."

Although Swinney made minimal changes to the cabinet, he has reduced the size of the government's ministerial team from 18 to 14, choosing not to fill the roles previously held by Green MSPs Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater and no longer offering positions to SNP colleagues George Adam, Emma Roddick and Joe Fitzpatrick.

The role of independence minister has also been abolished, although incumbent Jamie Hepburn remains a minister after replacing Adam as minister for parliamentary business.

Swinney defended the decision to get rid of the independence brief, writing in pro-independence newspaper The National that "because the Scottish Government believes independence offers the best future for Scotland, all cabinet secretaries and ministers – not just one – are responsible for helping to bring about that better future".

The Building a New Scotland series of papers Hepburn has been responsible for producing are expected to continue.

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