Gougeon keeps Rural Affairs brief in new leader’s cabinet


Scotland’s Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon has retained her post following the cabinet reshuffle by newly elected First Minister Humza Yousaf. Her role has been renamed “Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands”.

On Monday it was announced that Humza Yousaf had been elected as leader of the Scottish National Party, beating his nearest rival Kate Forbes by 52% to 48% once second preferences had been counted. He was confirmed by the Scottish Parliament as First Minister yesterday.

Last night it emerged that Kate Forbes, who is on maternity leave from her role as Finance Secretary, had turned the offer of a move to the Rural Affairs portfolio, saying she preferred to support the new leader from the backbenches. The proposed move to Rural Affairs was widely seen as a demotion from the finance brief although, as an MSP representing Skye and Lochaber, it might have been seen as an area of special interest for her.

It is not clear whether another post had been lined up for Mairi Gougeon, but since her appointment as Rural Affairs Secretary in May 2021 she has been well-liked, and she is regarded as having struck a fair balance between the demands of the rural and island economies, and environmental considerations.

As far as aquaculture is concerned, among the challenges coming up this year are the finalisation of the Scottish Government’s Vision for Aquaculture (which was due to be published at the end of last year) and negotiating the impact on fish farming and catch fishing of the proposed legislation on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which has proved unpopular among some coastal communities.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “We have enjoyed an excellent relationship with Mairi and we look forward to continuing our positive engagement.

“She fully understands the vital importance of our sector, which contributes £760 million to the economy, and knows how hard our farmers work to prioritise fish welfare and produce one of the most nutritious products we can eat.

“We have a number of issues we want the Scottish Government to prioritise, including the rural housing shortage and the need for a more streamlined licensing regime, so that we can deliver further sustainable growth in Scotland.”

Meanwhile Mairi McAllan, who was previously Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform, has been promoted to the new role of Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition.

Mairi McAllan



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