Nicola Sturgeon fields new team as transfer window closes

For Scottish Politics fanciers (yes, that includes both you and I) the last 24 hours have felt like premiership transfer deadline day.

With Twitter tuned to #ScotReshuffle and thumb over the refresh button, we were treated to a deluge of news from the top of government as the First Minister undertook her first major reshuffle since taking office in 2014.

And major it was. This was no tinkering round the edges; nor the removal of a few underperforming or tarnished ministers. This was a proper redecoration, with plenty of new framed portraits now hanging on the walls.

At the very top table, the seating arrangements have changed from 10 to 12, with new Cabinet Posts created to cover Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity and Government Business & Constitutional Relations. Michael Matheson (recently embattled at Justice) and Mike Russell fill those posts, respectively.

As part of this rejigging, some big name Cabinet Secretaries resigned. Keith Brown has stepped down, ostensibly to focus on his new role as Deputy Leader of the SNP. Shona Robison, a long-time friend and ally of the First Minister, vacated Health to earn a rest on the backbenches – something that must surely be overdue based on what we learn from her heartfelt resignation letter.

For the third sector, Scotland’s charities lose Angela Constance from the role of Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities. Having served in government for eight years (in a number of roles covering education, skills and youth and women’s employment) Angela has been a close ally of Scotland’s charities and earned much respect from across the sector. This was reflected in the swell of the well-wishing seen yesterday from those who had worked with her directly.

Effectively replacing Angela Constance will be Aileen Campbell, who earns promotion to the position of Cabinet Secretary for Communities & Local Government (note the dropping of Social Security and Equalities). From her previous ministerial roles (Minister for Children and Young People and Public Health and Sport) it would seem that the new Cabinet Secretary recognises the strength, value and diversity of the Scotland’s charity and voluntary sector and we are confident this strong relationship and understanding will continue as she takes on her new role.

Another new Cabinet appointment, of key importance to the sector, is that of Shirley-Anne Somerville to Social Security and Older People. With Social Security regulations (and the actual deliveryof benefits) still to be ironed out, an existing crisis in social care and an ageing population, this Cabinet promotion is almost certain to be a baptism of fire.

Sitting beneath the Cabinet is a clutch of new – and fresh-faced – Ministers, many of whom will be of interest to our sector. Amongst them are:

Joe Fitzpatrick MSP (Minister for Public Health, Sport & Wellbeing), who moved from Parliamentary Business, fills Aileen Campbell’s former post and will have a focus on reducing health inequalities and supporting the ambitions of health and sport charities.

Clare Haughey MSP (Minister for Mental Health), a former mental health nurse who takes over from Maureen Watt and will take responsibility for issues like the Mental Health Strategy, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and suicide prevention.

Christina McKelvie MSP (Minister for Older People & Equalities), will be supporting Shirley-Anne Somerville, but looks likely to have a greater focus on gender and, human rights and inequalities.

Ben Macpherson MSP (Minister for Europe, Migration & International Development) takes over from a role formerly held by Alasdair Allan MSP, and could be a useful ally for the sector as the Brexit saga continues.

Of course, this is no exhaustive list and there are other new appointments and changes to the structure of government which will be relevant. All of those (and breakdown of responsibilities) can be found here.

As we see, when Ministers are promoted to Cabinet, a void has to be filled. This will also be the case as certain committee seats and convenorships are abandoned in favour of an office in St Andrews House. So, be sure to keep your eyes open for new appointments at committee level!

With the transfer window now closed and the new squad soon to report for training, Scotland’s third sector are presented with a fresh opportunity to influence the tactics and deliver the results we’re looking for.