Nicola Sturgeon appoints new public health minister for Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon has announced a small reshuffle as she hires a new public health minister for Scotland.

Mairi Gougeon has been appointed the new public health minister after Joe FitzPatrick resigned in response to record drug death figures in Scotland.

As well as the wider role of improving public health and promoting sport at all levels in Scotland, Ms Gougeon will play a key part in tackling the pandemic with responsibility for coronavirus testing across Scotland, with the health secretary taking the lead on the delivery of Covid-19 vaccinations.

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The former minister for rural affairs and the natural environment takes up the public health and sport role after her predecessor quit on Friday.

Mr FitzPatrick had faced persistent calls to resign after yearly figures released earlier this week showed a rise to a new record high of 1,264 drug deaths last year.

A motion of no confidence was tabled against Mr FitzPatrick after the latest figures recorded 1,264 drug-related deaths across Scotland in 2019 – a record high and the worst toll in the EU.

He confirmed he was quitting following a discussion with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ben Macpherson is to become Minister for Rural Affairs and the Natural Environment, supporting both Roseanna Cunningham and Fergus Ewing where he will focus on the impacts of Brexit on the rural economy, support efforts to tackle climate change and to protect our wildlife and biodiversity.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces reshuffle as she appoints new public health minister picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announces reshuffle as she appoints new public health minister picture: PA

Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation Ivan McKee will take on additional responsibilities for supporting Finance Secretary Kate Forbes as the Scottish Government prepares to publish its Budget early in the new year.

Minister for Europe and International Development Jenny Gilruth is to take on responsibility for migration and, last week, the Ms Sturgeon nominated Angela Constance as Minister for Drugs Policy.

The First Minister said: “At a crucial time for Scotland, these new appointments ensure that we have a ministerial team fully focused on tackling the many important challenges facing us.

“Mairi Gougeon has proven herself to be a highly effective Rural Affairs minister working with stakeholders, balancing competing interests and taking on difficult policy challenges. She will now be part of the team protecting and improving Scotland’s public health, and will play a key role in the pandemic, taking the lead on testing.

“Mairi will work alongside the new Minister for Drugs Policy Angela Constance, who is tasked specifically with tackling what is another major public health emergency in Scotland.

“Ben Macpherson takes on the environment post at a critical time in our fight against climate change and as we take new steps to protect Scotland’s wonderful and diverse natural environment. Having previously worked on Climate Justice and Climate Finance, Ben will continue our work to protect wildlife, enhance biodiversity and support Scotland’s rural economy.

“With responsibility for migration, Jenny Gilruth will be working to tackle the demographic challenge threatening to undermine our economy and our society, and Ivan McKee will assist Kate Forbes in supporting firms through the pandemic, ensuring Scottish Government procurement backs Scottish business and in preparing our Budget early in the new year.”

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