Swinney appoints largely unchanged Cabinet but Forbes returns as his deputy

Kate Forbes has become Scotland’s youngest ever Deputy First Minister as John Swinney announced a largely unchanged Cabinet team.

Ms Forbes, 34, a former Holyrood finance secretary, had been tipped to run for the SNP leadership again after Humza Yousaf stood down just over a week ago, but she instead opted to back Mr Swinney and he went on to claim the position of party leader unopposed.

He has now rewarded her by making her his deputy, and also giving her responsibility for the economy and Gaelic.

By giving such a key role to Ms Forbes, a critic of some Scottish Government policies who had been on the backbenches during Mr Yousaf’s time in charge, Mr Swinney will hope to ease internal tensions within the SNP.

John Swinney and Kate Forbes spoke to journalists outside Bute House following her appointment (Jane Barlow/PA)

Speaking after his top team was announced, Mr Swinney said he is “committed to working collaboratively across the Parliament to address the pressing issues facing the people of Scotland”.

That will be required as the SNP is now a minority administration at Holyrood after Mr Yousaf tore up the powersharing deal the party had with the Scottish Greens – a move which ultimately led to his resignation as first minister.

Mr Swinney’s Cabinet includes eight women – thought to be the most ever – and two other men.

Neil Gray, who was appointed Health Secretary earlier this year, stays in the post, while Angus Robertson remains Constitution, External Affairs and Culture Secretary.

Scottish Cabinet
First Minister John Swinney stands with his newly appointed Cabinet on the steps of Bute House (Jane Barlow/PA)

Former teacher Jenny Gilruth remains Education Secretary, Angela Constance retains her position as Justice Secretary, and Fiona Hyslop continues as Transport Secretary.

Mairi McAllan remains in the Cabinet but with a slightly slimmed down brief – she had been the net zero, wellbeing economy and energy secretary, but now has responsibility for net zero and energy.

Shirley-Anne Sommerville and Mairi Gougeon also continue in their previous roles – as Social Justice Secretary, and Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands Secretary respectively.

Mr Swinney said: “I have selected a Cabinet team that blends experience and energy, with a strong focus on the priorities my Government will pursue – eradicating child poverty, driving economic growth, meeting climate obligations and investing in our vital public services.

John Swinney was accompanied by his wife Elizabeth Quigley and their son Matthew, 13, as he was sworn in as First Minister at the Court of Session on Wednesday morning (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“The Government I lead will maximise every lever at our disposal to tackle the scourge of poverty in our country.”

Ms Forbes said she was “deeply honoured” to be appointed as his deputy, describing it as an “extraordinary privilege”.

She added: “I look forward to working with John and Cabinet colleagues, delivering for the people of Scotland and building a better country.”

Speaking earlier on Wednesday after he was sworn into office at the Court of Session, Mr Swinney had said: “It’s a really overwhelming moment to take the oath of office in front of the Lord President of the Court of Session and formally assume the role of First Minister.

John Swinney takes the oath as he is sworn in as First Minister of Scotland and Keeper of the Scottish Seal, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh
John Swinney took the oath as he was sworn in as First Minister of Scotland and Keeper of the Scottish Seal, at the Court of Session in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“It’s an extraordinary opportunity to change lives for the better and I’ll continue to use every moment that’s available to me to do so.”

But rival parties hit out at the “uninspiring” Cabinet from Mr Swinney, with Scottish Conservative chairman Craig Hoy saying: “His is simply Humza Yousaf’s cabinet with a different figurehead.”

The Tory MSP added: “The return of Kate Forbes is a desperate attempt by both John Swinney and his new deputy to gloss over the huge splits in the SNP and fixate on independence.

“This uninspiring cabinet is further evidence that John Swinney as First Minister will just mean more of the same.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “This is a continuity cabinet, that cannot be trusted to fix the chaos and instability they have created.”

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