The next item of business is a debate on motions S5M-13018 and S5M-13017, in the name of Nicola Sturgeon, on the appointment of Scottish ministers and junior Scottish ministers. Members should note that the questions on the motions will be put immediately after the debate.
I will invite the First Minister to speak to and move the motions. I will then invite party representatives to make short speeches and the First Minister to reply.
Before I turn to the nominations for which I seek approval today, I confirm to the chamber that, with regret, I will not be asking Parliament to approve the appointment of Gillian Martin as a minister. In the course of this morning, information about content on a blog that was written by her more than 10 years ago was brought to my attention. I was not previously aware of all the comments of which I am now aware. I have to say that that content—however ill advised it may have been—does not reflect the views of the person that I know in Gillian Martin. However, the content merits my further consideration and I will, therefore, not ask Parliament to approve her appointment until I have had the chance to reflect further.
I rise to seek Parliament’s agreement that Shirley-Anne Somerville, Michael Russell, Jeane Freeman, Humza Yousaf and Aileen Campbell be appointed as Scottish ministers and that Ash Denham, Ben Macpherson, Christina McKelvie, Clare Haughey, Graeme Dey, Ivan McKee, Kate Forbes and Mairi Gougeon be appointed as Scottish junior ministers.
I record my thanks to those who are leaving the Government. Keith Brown is leaving to become the full-time deputy leader of the SNP. He has many achievements that he can be very proud of, including having overseen the construction of the magnificent new Queensferry crossing and having secured Scotland’s excellent record of attracting inward investment.
Angela Constance also served with distinction, not only in laying the groundwork for the dramatic fall in youth unemployment that we have seen in recent years but in being a strong voice at the Cabinet table for those who are not always heard in society. The fact that Scotland has received international recognition for the work that we have done to support refugees, on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex plus rights, on women’s issues and in many other areas is in no small part down to Angela’s leadership.
Shona Robison has been a compassionate and effective health secretary. Even with more patients being seen than ever before, Shona leaves a legacy of high levels of patient satisfaction and the lowest accident and emergency waiting times in the whole of the United Kingdom. Her final act as a minister was to offer a 9 per cent pay rise over three years to our NHS staff, which is a fitting tribute to the way in which Shona has always championed their interests. I know that the past couple of years have been particularly challenging for Shona personally. The dignified way in which she has remained dedicated to the NHS while under pressure is a lesson in how politicians should seek to conduct themselves. [
.] I am very proud to call her not just a colleague but a valued friend.
The outpouring of thanks over the past 48 hours for those who are leaving Government, from stakeholder organisations, some Opposition MSPs, members of the media and the wider public, speaks for itself. I know that MSPs from across the chamber will wish all of them well in the future.
I turn to the new appointments, and, first, the new Cabinet appointments. Humza Yousaf has been an outstanding Minister for Transport and the Islands. He has championed all forms of transport in Scotland. At the weekend, I saw that he has even started to take flying lessons. The Islands (Scotland) Bill, which he stewarded through the Parliament, is a major step forward for our island communities. As the minister for the beast from the east and many other unexpected events, Humza has more than proven his ability to calmly manage complex situations, and I know that he will be an excellent justice secretary.
Humza will be Scotland’s first Cabinet member from an ethnic minority background. That is a significant personal achievement for him but also a significant milestone for this Parliament. Humza will also become the youngest-ever cabinet secretary. The generational change in Scottish politics has certainly been brought home to me when I consider that, in Humza, I have just appointed someone to my Cabinet whom I first met when I spoke to his high school modern studies class some years ago.
I have asked Jeane Freeman to become the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport. Jeane has taken the enormous responsibility of overseeing the devolution of social security powers in her stride. Her forensic grasp of her brief has ensured that the process remains well on track. Importantly, Jeane has never treated the task simply as some Government project to manage. At every step of the way, she has adopted a bottom-up approach, making sure that our fellow citizens at the heart of the social security system are listened to and treated with dignity and respect. For those and many other reasons, Jeane is an ideal choice for her new role.
With the groundwork now laid for Scotland’s new social security system, the focus moves to its operation, and such a vital part of Government needs a permanent voice at the Cabinet table. I have therefore asked Shirley-Anne Somerville to become Scotland’s first dedicated Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People. Since her appointment, in 2016, Shirley-Anne has delivered substantial progress on widening access to university, improving student support for further and higher education and safeguarding Scotland’s academic excellence and innovation.
Aileen Campbell will take on the new role of Cabinet Secretary for Communities and Local Government. Aileen has shown strong leadership in a number of areas, not least in championing a public health approach to problem drug use and in tackling overweight and obesity.
Over the past two years, Michael Russell has been relentless in standing up for Scotland’s interests in the Brexit process, not least in his work in exposing the power grab that lies at the heart of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill. Mike has—to the irritation, no doubt, of some Opposition MSPs—become omnipresent in Parliament, on television and at the numerous events that he is invited to both in Scotland and further afield, but that is testament to the way in which he has effectively kept the minutiae and the chaos of the Brexit process under real, effective public scrutiny. His return to the Cabinet is as necessary as it is deserved. With a new chapter opening up in the Brexit process, it is right that the enormous impact that it will have on our economy and our society is fully reflected at Cabinet level.
A number of other individuals remain in the Cabinet. Derek Mackay will assume responsibility for the economy and fair work, in addition to finance. Michael Matheson will take on the new brief of transport and infrastructure. I have asked Roseanna Cunningham, Fergus Ewing, Fiona Hyslop and John Swinney to continue in their respective roles. John Swinney will also continue to serve as the Deputy First Minister, and I take this opportunity to thank him for the personal support and advice that he continues to offer to me and to other ministers.
I now turn to the junior ministerial appointments. After 11 years in office, it is encouraging that this Government is still able to draw on a wealth of new talent from our back benches. Today’s nominees represent constituencies the length and breadth of our country, and they bring an enormous amount of political, personal and professional experience into Government.
Clare Haughey is a former mental health nurse who continues to hold an honorary nursing position, and she will take on the role of Minister for Mental Health. Kate Forbes has been an excellent MSP, and I think that she will make an excellent Minister for Public Finances and Digital Economy, working with the Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Economy and Fair Work to manage the Scottish budget and tax policy. As if promoting Humza Yousaf has not made me feel old enough, Kate Forbes’s appointment also represents a first, as she is the first Scottish minister to have been born in the same decade as the Scottish Parliament itself.
Ivan McKee, who has extensive business experience, will take on the role of Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation, building on Scotland’s strong track record of attracting inward investment in recent years and working to boost exports. Christina McKelvie becomes the Minister for Older People and Equalities, building on her experience as the convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Equalities and Human Rights Committee. Mairi Gougeon, who has represented Scotland on the Committee of the Regions and recently held the United Kingdom Government to account on the rights of EU migrants, including her own husband, will be the Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment.
Ash Denham, who has ably and effectively assisted in prosecuting the case against the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill, is to be the Minister for Community Safety. Ben Macpherson takes on the role of Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development. Having literally walked 500 miles from Scotland to London in his younger days to promote international peace, he will bring a real, personal commitment to Scotland’s international development work. Graeme Dey, who is a highly effective committee convener and who has, in that role, put ministers under regular pressure, will now find out what it is like on the other side, as the new Minister for Parliamentary Business and Veterans. There is no revenge whatsoever in that appointment.
Finally, I am pleased that Joe FitzPatrick, Jamie Hepburn, Paul Wheelhouse, Maree Todd and Kevin Stewart have all agreed to remain part of the ministerial team.
I am pleased to say that, as well as having a gender-balanced Cabinet, we will have a junior ministerial team that is gender balanced for the first time. Every one of today’s nominees is there on merit, and I know that they will be hugely effective members of the ministerial team. I also know that they are itching to get started and get on with the job, so it gives me great pleasure to move the motions today.
That the Parliament agrees that Shirley-Anne Somerville, Michael Russell, Jeane Freeman, Humza Yousaf and Aileen Campbell be appointed as Scottish Ministers.
That the Parliament agrees that Ash Denham, Ben Macpherson, Christina McKelvie, Clare Haughey, Graeme Dey, Ivan McKee, Kate Forbes and Mairi Gougeon be appointed as junior Scottish Ministers.
This is not the speech that I had hoped to make at all, Presiding Officer. For seven years, I have scrupulously avoided on these occasions making remarks that are at all partisan in character. All of us are elected to this Parliament with the hope that one day we can serve in Government—it is certainly true that the Scottish Conservatives have hoped for longer than most—so for those who are leaving the Government or for those who are joining, this is a significant personal moment. I am genuinely sorry that to use all the material that many of their colleagues volunteered to me just does not seem appropriate now.
I pay tribute to Shona Robison. For as long as there has been a Scottish National Party Government, Shona Robison has been a member of it. When working with Shona Robison, I have always found her to be enormously committed to the national health service and tremendously well briefed on every aspect of it. To her credit, she has the legacy of the 2014 Commonwealth games, which she as a minister was instrumental in ensuring were as successful as they were. She was also a hard-working exponent of alcohol minimum unit pricing.
Shona Robison has not had her troubles to seek. I hope that all is well with her and, even if we think that fresh leadership on health might be the right course now, I thank her and give her our best wishes for the future on behalf of everyone in the Conservative Party.
I thank the other ministers who are leaving the Government. I thank Keith Brown for all his work and focus on veterans issues. The fact that he is a veteran was hugely appreciated by all the organisations that participate in the cross-party group on the armed forces and veterans community and by the wider veterans community. Although he will not be the veterans minister, I know that his interest will not diminish at all. I thank Angela Constance, Alasdair Allan, Maureen Watt and Annabelle Ewing, too.
I welcome quite a number of the appointments to the Government. I am struggling not to use some of the material that I had hoped to use, but it would not work today. I welcome Kate Forbes and Ben Macpherson. Clare Haughey’s appointment is one of the most inspired, because—I hope—her understanding of mental health issues will be of direct assistance and provide a focus and drive to her portfolio. The appointments of people including Graeme Dey and Mairi Gougeon all stand out.
I welcome Jeane Freeman to the health portfolio. She did a tremendous job of introducing what became the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. I flag up to her my concern about mesh implants. The Public Petitions Committee is set to produce a further report on the issue, and Professor Alison Britton is due to issue her report—probably at the beginning of the next parliamentary year. I hope that Jeane Freeman will engage with that issue, among all the other considerable health issues.
In welcoming Humza Yousaf’s appointment, I will permit myself one line. The First Minister said that he is trying to be a pilot, and people always need a fallback in case they forget about their motor insurance policy. I will leave it there; I congratulate him.
I had lovely things to say about Aileen Campbell, but I cannot say them. I will save them in the hope that there is another opportunity.
Sadly and unfortunately, a reshuffle that was intended to bury bad news—it was intended to take attention away from the education U-turn and to distract us from unfortunate events in relation to Heathrow—has become bad news. A year ago, the First Minister said:
“any Government, after 10 years, needs to take stock and ... refresh.”—[
, 27 June 2017; c 15.]
I thought that that meant that we would get a reshuffle then. The reshuffle has been a year in the making, so it should surely have been underpinned by a vetting procedure that is fit for purpose.
“American Jews- tip ok but only if you’ve absolutely busted your hump and everything was faultless in the extreme. Often complain about the quality of the food, and then the small portions ...
American Blacks- don’t tip at all or tip next to nothing- to be avoided. The waiters (also black, remember) would do anything to avoid serving a table of blacks or be openly disappointed if allocated one.”
That is shocking and I cannot make light of that. I note the First Minister’s opening remarks and I understand the tradition in a debate such as this, but the proposed appointment prompts a judgment about the First Minister. She has done the job long enough; thin excuses do not cut it.
A reshuffle that has been a year in the making should not stand as the most notorious reshuffle in the Parliament’s history. It is a shame—there are ministers who will be appointed this afternoon who deserve better, and there are ex-ministers saying their farewells who deserve more thanks. However, thanks to the First Minister, all of that will be drowned out. We support the appointments, but this is not how they should happen. That is deeply depressing for the Parliament.
This is a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle. It was clear to us many months ago that something had to change in the health portfolio. At First Minister’s question time, Richard Leonard told the First Minister time and time again that the health service was being badly let down and that Shona Robison needed to go. It took the First Minister until this week to listen to us.
In fairness to Shona Robison, she inherited a health service that was failing—a health service in which training places had been slashed by her predecessor, who is now the First Minister. Shona Robison was left presiding over a health service with chronic staff shortages, with no long-term planning and where care of the elderly was failing.
This is the 70th birthday of the NHS and never in its 70 years has it been in such peril. Staff are stressed; many of them believe that they are not able to provide the level of care that they would wish. The very least that the First Minister can do for them is to make sure that there are adequate resources for our NHS, in both staff and finance.
The level of care of our elderly shames us all. They are the generation who, at a time of post-war austerity, funded a health service free at the point of need out of taxation when they were already suffering personally. Therefore, we must ensure that they receive the full benefits of the health service that they created into their old age. Reshuffling the Cabinet will not do that. What we need is investment in staff and services.
The First Minister has changed the finance and economy brief. She obviously believes that the Scottish economy is doing so well that a job that previously required two cabinet secretaries can now be put in the hands of only one. Maybe on reading the growth commission report she realised that, in comparison with the economy of an independent Scotland, we are doing very well. Scotland trails the rest of the UK with regard to the economy. At this time, she should be bolstering the brief rather than cutting it.
Neither can we build a vibrant economy without a highly trained workforce and that training starts in the early years, building confidence and a thirst for learning. [
.] Obviously, the SNP back benchers do not agree with that. However, we see no change in that brief. John Swinney, the cabinet secretary who this week shelved yet another ground-breaking bill, has been kept in place. He has presided over an education system in which attainment rates are falling and teacher dissatisfaction is growing.
To help him in his brief, he was given Gillian Martin, whose words and blogs have offended every minority group and indeed all of us. Common sense has prevailed and I welcome the fact that the First Minister has had a change of heart with regard to this appointment. However, as Richard Leonard pointed out earlier, this appointment calls into question the very judgment of the First Minister. Did she know about those comments before the appointment? If she believes that Gillian Martin is not fit to be a minister, is Gillian Martin really fit to be a member of the Scottish Parliament?
Reshuffling the Cabinet gives the impression of action. However, the action that we really need is investment in our services, our schools, our hospitals, and—most of all—our older generations. This reshuffle does nothing to address those issues. We in the Labour Party have made proposals to raise finance to invest in our country and such an investment is needed to make a real change to Scotland. Only a change of Government will deliver that.
The Greens welcome the opportunity to congratulate newly appointed ministers on their new roles. As a member of generation 2016, I am particularly pleased to see so many of my colleagues who also joined the Parliament then being given positions of responsibility. I offer my congratulations to them all.
Recent photographs on the stairs of Bute house portraying a fresh-faced, energetic group of still very young people raring to go are quite encouraging. We look forward to seeing that same group in three years in a before-and-after photo that reveals how they have coped with the very real demands that come with ministerial office, because they face significant challenges and will no doubt be tested in their new roles.
The Greens will continue to stay true to our values of equality, peace, environmental sustainability and radical democracy and we will continue to challenge all those in power in a constructive but determined manner. All of us in the Parliament have an obligation to scrutinise the Government rigorously and effectively, because we owe it to the people whom we represent to ensure that we have effective governance of the country.
We are pleased to see continuing commitment from the First Minister to gender balance in Scotland’s Government. That is a reminder that there remains much work to do on equalities for many groups in society.
To the cabinet secretaries who are departing—Keith Brown, Angela Constance and Shona Robison—we say thank you. Shona Robison in particular had an important portfolio. In many regards, hers was a thankless task, so we say a particular thank you to her for her commitment, her hard work and the constructive way in which she engaged with us, at least over the past two years. Government is not easy. We owe it to the people who serve to acknowledge that while holding power to account at the same time.
We particularly welcome Jeane Freeman to the health brief. She is an excellent example of a minister who engaged extremely effectively with Parliament, other parties and external interests over legislation—the Social Security (Scotland) Act 2018. Would that all legislation was handled that effectively. We wish her all the best in a testing portfolio.
It is also good to see Michael Russell back in the Cabinet. He adds a bit of panache, pizzazz and show business now and again. [
] It is perhaps no secret that the Greens would have hoped for at least one other change in the membership of Cabinet.
There are real continuing challenges ahead: austerity, the demands on health and social care, the revitalisation of local democracy, and climate change, for instance. They are all being addressed under the long shadow of Brexit, which means that the next three years will be among the most difficult for all of us who are engaged in politics, not just those of us who are in Government.
We welcome the First Minister’s remarks on the high standards that are expected of those who serve the people of Scotland. It is a reminder that we should all reflect at all times on the fact that what we say and how we carry ourselves very much matters.
I congratulate the cabinet secretaries and junior ministers and give them our best wishes. The Greens look forward to working with them all in the remainder of the session.
I will depart briefly from my prepared remarks to address this morning’s events. Governments must reflect the better natures of the societies that they seek to represent. That said, the First Minister has the full support of the Liberal Democrat members in the painful decision that she took this morning.
It is my great pleasure to respond to the ministerial appointments on my party’s behalf and, I hope, inject some levity back into the proceedings.
Many dreams will have come true today and I congratulate the members in question on that. It has been a week of high drama. The First Minister gave out no fewer than six Cabinet-level portfolios. That took me back to my first day on the job in the Parliament, when I, too, was given six Cabinet-level portfolios. I have been doing things that really should have got me sacked by now.
However, my boss, Willie Rennie, keeps insisting that I am the only person for the jobs.
I have only four minutes, so I cannot read the whole list of names that featured in the reshuffle. There are many. That is surprising, given the fact that, when the SNP came to power in 2007, it was on the promise of slimmed-down, focused, streamlined government. Now, there are 25 of them, so the former First Minister will be spinning in his Kremlin-backed studio.
I say a big welcome to Jeane Freeman, who shares my health portfolio. It is a great portfolio to represent. It is somewhat surprising:
I welcome my fellow members of the 2016 intake. It is great to see the talent that they will bring to the Government benches.
On a sombre note, we should not forget those who are leaving Government. I recognise that ministerial service comes at a tremendous personal cost, not just to oneself, but to one’s family. Alasdair Allan, Annabelle Ewing, Maureen Watt and Keith Brown have done a service to their party, which has culminated in ministerial service to this country. I want to thank them and their families for that.
I want to focus on two departing cabinet secretaries, the first of whom is Angela Constance, or “ACon”, as she is affectionately known by her civil servants, who will keenly feel her absence. Hers will be a very difficult, and very flamboyant, pair of shoes to fill. The second is Shona Robison. My calls for her resignation are a matter of public record, but I take no joy in her departure. She has always treated me with kindness and great generosity of time, and she has an obvious compassion about her, which is very uncommon in Scottish politics.
I am delighted to see Clare Haughey in the mental health position. It is fair to say that, in the two years since the ministry was first created, not as much progress on mental health has been made as we all hoped to see. I know that her expertise will bring so much value to that position. Her task will be harder, because there are more ministers around her, which means that she will have to fight harder for ministerial time and recognition of that most important issue. As Liberal Democrats, we appeal to all cabinet secretaries and ministers not to allow mental health to be siloed but, instead, to treat it as a golden thread that runs through every department of Government.
Today, the Scottish Government is bigger than it was yesterday, as I said at the top of my remarks. All told, the ministerial salary pot will cost the taxpayer £275,000 a year more than it did last week, which is significant. Let me put that in context: that is exactly the amount of money that HIV Scotland stands to lose at the end of July. I ask the health secretary and her team of junior ministers to reflect on that, because the number of HIV infections in Scotland is still growing.
I want to finish on a positive note. The new ministers have the best wishes of the Liberal Democrats. We wish them good fortune, because the decisions that they make will impact on the lives and interests of all our constituents, so they must make good choices. We will offer consensus where we can and resistance where we cannot. Good luck and congratulations.
First, I thank the members who have spoken in this short debate for their good wishes to departing ministers—in particular, those that have been expressed for Shona Robison—and their congratulations and good wishes for new ministers. Those sentiments are very much appreciated.
On the issue of Gillian Martin, I take the comments that have been made today on the chin. As First Minister, that is part of my responsibility, and I do not hesitate to do so. I will obviously reflect carefully.
In the time available, I want to make three quick points. First, I was genuinely not aware of the comments that Jackson Carlaw read out. As I understand it, they came from blog posts from more than 10 years ago.
Secondly, Gillian Martin has been a member of this Parliament for two years, and members across the chamber have got to know her well. I simply ask members to ask themselves whether, in their heart of hearts, they believe that the comments that have been read out—however ill-advised they were; I do not take issue with that—reflect the views of the person they have come to know.
Thirdly, when I was made aware of the comments this morning, I immediately took action to lodge a new motion without Gillian Martin’s name on it. I think that all parties should resolve to act quickly when such issues arise. I do not want to get party political, but there are elected representatives of other parties up and down the country who have made vile, homophobic and racist comments without action being taken, so let this be a moment of reflection for all of us. Before we stand in glass houses throwing stones, we should make sure that our houses are all in order.
Alex Cole-Hamilton mentioned the size of the Government. It was a reasonable comment to make, but I am sure that he and members across the chamber will recognise the fact that the increasing size of the Government reflects the increasing responsibilities of the Scottish Parliament, which all of us have welcomed, as well as the challenges that are posed by Brexit, which are less welcome for most of us.
Alex Cole-Hamilton said that he was confused as to how Jeane Freeman had made it to the Government before him. I gently say to him that it might be something to do with his choice of party. However, if I had known that he was in the transfer market, I might have considered things a bit differently.
The Presiding Officer:
That concludes our debate on the appointment of Scottish ministers and junior Scottish ministers. We move to the questions on the motions.
The first question is, that motion S5M-13018, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of Scottish ministers, be agreed to.
Motion agreed to,
T he First Minister may now invite Her Majesty to approve the appointment of Shirley-Anne Somerville, Michael Russell, Jeane Freeman, Humza Yousaf and Aileen Campbell as Scottish ministers. I offer my congratulations on their appointment. [
The second question is, that motion S5M-13017, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of junior Scottish ministers, be agreed to.
Motion agreed to,
The First Minister may now invite Her Majesty to approve the appointment of Ash Denham, Ben Macpherson, Christina McKelvie, Clare Haughey, Graeme Dey, Ivan McKee, Kate Forbes and Mairi Gougeon as junior Scottish ministers. I offer my congratulations on their appointment. [
That concludes business for today. I wish members well and look forward to seeing you all refreshed and reinvigorated after the summer recess.
Meeting closed at 13:11.