Before I turn to Maree Todd’s appointment, I want to address Mark McDonald’s departure. As Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark oversaw the initial work on our plans to double the provision of nursery education and the successful national roll-out, from this summer, of the baby box, an initiative of which I am extremely proud.
However, as John Swinney said last week, politics must set the highest of standards. He urged men, in particular, to reflect on their behaviour, and Mark has done that. Mark’s departure did not come about in a manner that anyone would have wished, but it was the right decision.
I turn to Maree Todd’s appointment. As well as being a relative newcomer to our Parliament, Maree is a relative newcomer to politics. She is one of the many people on both sides of the debate who were inspired to become politically active during the independence referendum campaign. Prior to her election last year, Maree had a long career working for NHS Highland as a mental health pharmacist. She also volunteered as an antenatal teacher for the National Childbirth Trust; indeed, she was still teaching a weekly bumps and babies group right up until her election. Having supported mothers and their babies, Maree will now take on responsibility for ensuring that Scotland is the best place for those same children to grow up in.
Since becoming a member of the Scottish Parliament, Maree has shown herself to be a formidable advocate for her constituents and for the causes in which she believes. Few could fail to have been moved by the passionate, heartfelt appeal that she made in this chamber to the United Kingdom Government to halt the roll-out of universal credit, which was based on what she had witnessed in the Highlands.
However, it is in her day-to-day parliamentary duties as a whip and as a member of the Finance and Constitution Committee and the Health and Sport Committee that Maree has developed a well-deserved reputation for diligence and hard work. I gently remind those Opposition members who might have the job of shadowing her that she is also an enthusiastic member of the Scottish Parliament’s rugby team. I suggest that, if they believe that she can be pushed around easily, they should first consult her teammates to find out the truth.
Government has few greater long-term responsibilities than that of ensuring that all our young people get the best possible start in life. As such, the job that Maree is taking on is one of the most important in Government. In doing so, she has my full confidence, and I hope that she also has the best wishes of every MSP across the chamber.
It gives me great pleasure to move,
That the Parliament agrees that Maree Todd be appointed as a junior Scottish Minister.
The circumstances attending this ministerial resignation do not require editorial comment from me in the chamber this afternoon. I note only—on behalf, I hope, of us all—that this is the most depressing ministerial resignation in our relatively short history. I thank the former minister for his service and note, in particular, the focus that he brought with real passion and feeling to the issues of children with autism. I thought that he did a commendable job in that regard.
We welcome the appointment of Maree Todd, a new member in 2016. She has worked hard in the chamber and has built a reputation across the parties as an effective and passionate MSP. I hope that those qualities will be reflected in her career as a minister, which we will all watch with interest.
We support the nomination.