Sturgeon takes charge of referendum in Salmond reshuffle
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 5 September 2012
First Minister Alex Salmond has announced a rare reshuffle of his Scottish National Party government, primarily aimed at putting his deputy Nicola Sturgeon in charge of strategic planning for the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence.
Sturgeon remains as deputy first minister, but swaps the health portfolio – which she has held since 2007 – with Infrastructure and Investment Secretary Alex Neil. She has also taken on extra responsibility for government strategy and the constitution. The post of Cabinet secretary for parliamentary business and government strategy has been scrapped, reducing the size of the Cabinet by one to eight. Former postholder Bruce Crawford has left frontline politics at his own request.
Outside Cabinet, chief whip and parliamentary business minister Brian Adam and environment minister Stewart Stevenson have been replaced by Joe FitzPatrick and Paul Wheelhouse respectively, both first-time ministers. Also promoted from the newer ranks of MSPs are Margaret Burgess at housing and Humza Yousaf at external affairs and international development. All the new ministers except FitzPatrick were first elected in 2011.
All other ministers and law officers remain in post.
Sturgeon’s new role is expected to begin tomorrow, with the latest round of negotiations with UK ministers over the arrangements for the referendum.
Salmond praised her record in sparing Scotland the ‘creeping privatisation’ of the health service in England, and said she would now take the lead in making a positive case for independence: ‘In 2014, the people of Scotland will have the chance to seize the biggest opportunity in 300 years and ensure that Scotland’s future is in Scotland’s hands.’
He also applauded Neil, once seen as a critic, for delivering a record infrastructure investment programme against a background of UK budget cuts. ‘In taking forward Nicola Sturgeon’s substantial achievements as Health Secretary, he will ensure that Scotland’s health service continues to have the strongest possible leadership.
‘This strong ministerial team will take this government forward in meeting the economic and social challenges we face while creating a better Scotland for future generations,’ Salmond said.
Pay for old and new ministers will remain at April 2008 levels. The Scottish Government has frozen pay for Cabinet secretaries, ministers and the two law officers for the past three years.