NICOLA Sturgeon has removed two of her most dedicated and loyal Ministers as she undertakes a reshuffle of her Scottish Cabinet today.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop and Rural Affairs Secretary Fergus Ewing who played a big role during the Brexit process will not be included in the Scottish First Minister’s new Government today. Ms Hyslop and Mr Ewing initially joined the cabinet under previous First Minister Alex Salmond in 2007 and have subsequently been MSPs since the start of devolution in 1999.
Both former Ministers will remain as SNP MSPs in the Scottish Parliament for the next Holyrood term until 2026.
In a statement, Nicola Sturgeon said: “I want to pay tribute to the work of both Fiona Hyslop and Fergus Ewing and to thank them for their unstinting public service over many years.
“Fiona has served in Cabinet since 2007, firstly as Education Secretary, then as Culture and External Affairs Secretary before taking on the Economy and Fair Work portfolio.
“Her tenure in the External Affairs brief saw Fiona oversee the expansion of the Scottish Government’s international footprint, giving our country a higher profile than it has ever had before on the global stage, and that is a legacy which she can and should be justly proud of.
“Fergus has also been part of the ministerial team since 2007, and has brought diligence and endeavour to all of the jobs he has held. In particular, he has worked tirelessly with and on behalf of Scotland’s rural sector over the past five years since the Brexit vote, fighting their corner at every turn.
“Fergus has been a champion for Scotland’s farmers and crofters during one of the most difficult, challenging and uncertain periods our agricultural sector has ever faced, and he has the gratitude of many in the industry for his efforts to protect their interests.
“I want to offer my sincere thanks to Fiona and Fergus for their service, and wish them well as they continue to serve their constituents in the new Parliament.”
The Express understands Nicola Sturgeon is keen to bring in new faces for her new administration after she was reappointed as Scottish First Minister yesterday.
A Scottish Government source, said: “Nicola wants a new government with fresh faces and new energy. She is upset at their departure but has argeed it’s time for change.”
Mr Ewing recently came under fire after being accused of breaking strict government rules in his dealings with the businessmen at the centre of the Greensill lobbying scandal.
The MSP dined with banker Lex Greensill and steel billionaire Sanjeev Gupta and two other senior colleagues at one of Glasgow’s top restaurants in 2017 but no officials were present and no notes were taken relating to the meal at Cail Bruich.
The Scottish Government also claims to have no emails, texts or phone records about the meeting.
Mr Gupta, Greensill and the Scottish Government struck complex multi-million pound financial deals for major state support used by Mr Gupta to purchase metal and power plants in Scotland.
But, the firm GFG Alliance is now in crisis due to the collapse of Mr Greensill’s finance firm, Greensill capital, which was Mr Gupta’s biggest financial backer prior to administration.
The Scottish Government said Mr Ewing attended the dinner with Mr Greensill, Mr Gupta, Tim Haywood – who was later fired from fund management firm GAM Holdings for alleged misconduct – and Jay Hambro, but does not know who paid for the meal.
The SNP said the meeting was “properly recorded” and said “attempts to make mischief around this issue are utterly baseless”.
A spokesman said: “Civil servants do not attend every dinner or engagement a minister goes to – that would be a ludicrous waste of public money – and the ministerial code does not require them to.”
The move by Ms Sturgeon comes after she removed her Deputy John Swinney as Education Minister last night.
Mr Swinney has instead been appointed Minister for Coronavirus recovery and will take responsibility for driving cross-government action on tackling the pandemic.
The senior SNP Government minister will also take the lead on inter-governmental relations with Westminster and public service reform, including within government.
It comes as the latest opinion polling shows a fall in support for Scottish independence with the latest polling showing only 37 per cent of Scots believe there should be a referendum before the end of 2023 – Nicola Sturgeon’s proposed timeline for a second vote.
And asked how they would vote in a referendum, 58 per cent said they would choose to ‘remain part of the United Kingdom’ when asked ‘should Scotland remain part of the United Kingdom or leave the United Kingdom?’
The poll of over 1,000 adults in Scotland was carried out for the country’s largest pro-UK campaign group, Scotland in Union, with fieldwork running to May 4.