The role of communities secretary has been axed in Nicola Sturgeon's new cabinet team
The importance of politicians recognising the work of the voluntary sector has been stressed, after the new composition of the Scottish Government was revealed this week.
Nicola Sturgeon unveiled her new cabinet team yesterday (Wednesday 19 May), with a the line-up featuring a mixture of experienced ministers and new faces.
The role of cabinet secretary for communities and local government has been abolished, with responsibility for the voluntary sector falling to Shona Robison, who has been appointed cabinet secretary for social justice, housing and local government.
Before being elected as an MSP in 1999, Robison worked for Glasgow City Council’s social work department as a home care organiser and community worker. She was shadow minister for health and social justice before the SNP came into government in 2007.
Robison represents Dundee City East, and has held various roles in government in recent years, including minister for public health and minister for Commonwealth Games in sport. She is returning to the cabinet, having resigned as health secretary in 2018 after a challenging few years in both her professional and private life.
She said: “It’s a huge honour to be asked to take on social justice, housing and local government in the Scottish Government cabinet. My approach will be to put aside political differences and work constructively with colleagues across the Scottish Parliament and beyond. Thanks for the many kind wishes.”
Robison will be joined by junior ministers Christina McKelvie (equalities and older people) and Ben MacPherson (social security and local government).
Anna Fowlie, chief executive of the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO), welcomed Robison to her role, but added it’s disappointing that the voluntary sector was not mentioned in the government’s ministerial portfolios.
She said: “On behalf of all of us at SCVO, I would like to welcome Shona Robison to her new role as cabinet secretary for social justice, housing and local government which includes responsibility for the third sector and social economy. While some parts of the sector will be very well known to the cabinet secretary from her previous work in relation to health and social care, we look forward to working with her to ensure that the breadth of the voluntary sector and the significant and diverse range of ways in which it contributes to Scottish society are uppermost in her thinking.
“It’s disappointing that, despite all five main political parties being unusually outspoken about the importance of charities, community organisations and social enterprises to Scotland’s recovery, the sector as a whole doesn’t even get a mention on the face of the Scottish Government’s new ministerial portfolios. From justice to health, economy to environment, voluntary organisations are integral to a successful Scotland. I look forward to seeing that recognised in the first 100 days.”
Michael Matheson has been named as cabinet secretary for net zero, energy and transport, with environmental charities welcoming the new expanded role.
Changeworks deputy chief executive Liz Partington said: “Cop26 is coming up later this year, and that makes 2021 a very important year for actions to tackle the climate emergency.
“But the work cannot end with Cop26. The next five years must see the climate and decarbonisation at the heart of all Scottish Government action. There are ambitious targets to meet, including a 75% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 ahead of a later move to net zero. We would urge the Scottish Government to treat this as a minimum ambition, not a stretch goal – the planet needs us to go further faster.
“Projects like decarbonising heat and transport and greening our economy cannot be done by Government in isolation. They will require the public, private and third sector to work together, as well as individuals and communities, and Changeworks stands ready to continue our work as a key partner. We are already working with partners all across Scotland delivering ambitious projects, and we’re eager to do even more.”
Environmental Protection Scotland also welcomed the expanded role. Policy and communications officer John Bynorth said: “This appointment brings continuity to his expanded cabinet portfolio that will play an important role in Scotland’s efforts to achieve net-zero emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045.”
Angela Constance will serve as minister for drugs policy, Deputy First Minister John Swinney takes on a new role as cabinet secretary for Covid response (and he will also be responsible for delivering the Promise to care experienced people), and Humza Yousaf becomes cabinet secretary for health and social care.
Kevin Stewart takes on the role of mental wellbeing and social care, Clare Haughey children and young people, and Jamie Hepburn is minister for higher education and further education, youth employment and training.