Scotland’s new first minister rewards allies with cabinet appointments

Scotland’s new First Minister Humza Yousaf unveiled his cabinet on Wednesday, rewarding colleagues who backed his bid to lead the Scottish National Party and retaining key figures who served under his predecessor, Nicola Sturgeon.

Yousaf, who described himself as the steward of many of Sturgeon’s flagship social policies, reinforced his progressive credentials by appointing the first-ever Scottish Cabinet with a majority of women.

After being sworn in as first minister on Wednesday, Yousaf is now trying to rebuild the reputation of the pro-independence SNP as a government competence.

“I am committed to a radical, ambitious and progressive political agenda for Scotland and I know this team is the right person to deliver on it,” he said.

But Gerry Hassan, a professor of social change at Glasgow Caledonian University, said Yousaf could struggle to convince Scots that the SNP would bring improvements in areas like health and education after almost 16 years in power.

“There needs to be a change in tone and substance, and they need to do things that impact people’s lives,” he added. “Turning around a large ship that is off course is a big challenge.”

Yousaf, the first Scottish Prime Minister of ethnic minority background, has promised to heal the divisions revealed during the often bitter SNP leadership contest.

Humza Yousaf takes the oath as he is sworn in at the Court of Session in Edinburgh as Scotland's first Minister

Humza Yousaf takes the oath as he is the first Scottish Minister to be sworn in at the Court of Session in Edinburgh © Jane Barlow/PA

His main rival in the race, former Treasury Secretary Kate Forbes, has harshly criticized Yousaf’s record in government.

While Forbes said she supports Yousaf and his new cabinet, she turned down his offer to serve in a more junior position as secretary for rural affairs.

Yousaf on Wednesday appointed Shona Robison, a close friend and ally of Sturgeon’s, as Treasury Secretary after previously appointing her Deputy First Minister.

Màiri McAllan, the former environment secretary and a rising star in the SNP, has been promoted to secretary for Net Zero. Six of the ten cabinet portfolios went to women.

Yousaf promoted Neil Gray, the former culture secretary and his campaign manager in the SNP leadership contest, to cabinet secretary for welfare economics.

The role of health minister previously held by Yousaf has been filled by Michael Matheson.

Angus Robertson, who served as constitutional secretary under Sturgeon, retains the same post in Yousaf’s cabinet.

In what is likely to be seen as a blow to attempts to mend strained relations with Scotland’s corporate sector during Sturgeon’s reign, Ivan McKee, the business secretary and a former Forbes supporter, left government after being offered a post with less responsibility.

McKee was one of the few ministers in Sturgeon’s government who were considered pro-business.

But David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, a business lobby group, said he welcomed the appointments of Robison and Gray, which he said came at “a crucial moment” for Scotland’s economy.

Jackie Baillie, deputy leader of the Scottish Labor Party, accused Yousaf of rewarding loyalty over talent.

“The First Minister has promised to bring the country together, but he can’t even bring his own party together,” she added. Scotland’s new first minister rewards allies with cabinet appointments

Russell Falcon

Russell Falcon is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Russell Falcon joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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