John Swinney Handed 'Education Secretary Post

John Swinney has been appointed Education Secretary as part of the new Scottish Cabinet, reflecting First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's "top priority'' of closing the attainment gap.

Ms Sturgeon said Mr Swinney's move to the post previously held by Angela Constance reflected the importance her government placed on education.

Mr Swinney will remain Deputy First Minister with large parts of his previous role as Finance Secretary taken on by former transport secretary Derek Mackay.

Mr Mackay will be responsible for the budget and for overseeing the introduction of Scotland's new tax powers after Ms Sturgeon split the former finance brief.

The newly-created post of Cabinet Secretary for Economy has been handed to former infrastructure secretary Keith Brown, who will lead on infrastructure, investment and growth.

The First Minister said her focus following the reshuffle would be to ensure a "world-class'' education system and deliver on the promise to close the attainment gap.

She said: "John's record is exemplary, overseeing a succession of balanced budgets as well as delivering the recent fiscal framework deal that will underpin the new powers being devolved to the Scottish parliament.

"His appointment to this crucial role demonstrates how important education is to my government.''

Ms Constance has been moved to the new portfolio of Communities, Social Security and Equalities.

Fergus Ewing, former business, energy and tourism minister, has been appointed Rural Economy and Connectivity Secretary, tasked with addressing rural challenges and improving transport and broadband links.

Fiona Hyslop will remain Culture and External Affairs Secretary but her remit will be extended to include tourism.

Shona Robison and Michael Matheson have retained their roles as secretaries for health and justice respectively, with Ms Sturgeon praising their "excellent track record''.

Roseanna Cunningham will take up the new post of Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Secretary.

Former Rural Affairs Secretary Richard Lochhead and Social Justice Minister Alex Neil both stepped down from the cabinet in advance of the reshuffle.

Ms Sturgeon said: "The Cabinet I have announced today will ensure our priorities of education and the economy are given fresh impetus; our public services are reformed and improved, and we are able to respond to challenges such as climate change in the years to come.

"The new Scottish Government team has the right mixture of experience and fresh ideas, and maintains the gender balance that I believe is important. It is the best team to take Scotland forward.''

The First Minister also unveiled a new ministerial team with a focus on childcare, education and employment.

Mark McDonald has become minister for childcare and early years, with Shirley-Anne Somerville taking up the post of minister for further education, higher education and science.

Paul Wheelhouse will be minister for business, innovation and energy, with Humza Yousaf taking on the role of minister for transport and the islands.

Jeane Freeman will become the Scottish Government's first dedicated minister for social security with Jamie Hepburn appointed as minister for employability and training.

Kevin Stewart will be minister for local government and housing, Alasdair Allan minister for international development and Europe and Maureen Watt the new minister for mental health.

Aileen Campbell will take on the public health and sport portfolio while Annabelle Ewing will focus on community safety and Joe Fitzpatrick will continue as minister for parliamentary business.

The First Minister said the appointments brought "a number of new faces and a huge amount of energy to taking forward the Scottish Government's programme''.

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