Mairi Gougeon announced as new public health minister

The former minister for rural affairs and the natural environment will take over the role from Joe FitzPatrick.

Mairi Gougeon announced as new public health minister Getty Images

Mairi Gougeon has been appointed the new public health minister after Joe FitzPatrick resigned in response to record drug death figures in Scotland.

The former minister for rural affairs and the natural environment takes up the public health and sport role after her predecessor quit on Friday following growing calls for him to stand down.

A motion of no confidence was tabled against Mr FitzPatrick after the latest figures recorded 1,264 drug-related deaths across Scotland in 2019 – a record high and the worst toll in the EU.

Last week First Minister Nicola Sturgeon nominated Angela Constance for the newly-created role of minister for drugs policy.

The Scottish Government said Ms Gougeon’s appointment is part of a ministerial shake-up aimed at boosting the fight against coronavirus and she will now take responsibility, with the Health Secretary, for the Covid-19 testing programme.

Ben Macpherson takes over Ms Gougeon’s former post, with his public finance and migration role being split between Ivan McKee and Jenny Gilruth.

Mr McKee, minister for trade, investment and innovation, will take on the public finance aspect while Ms Gilruth, the minister for Europe and international development, will now deal with migration.

Ms Sturgeon said: “At a crucial time for Scotland, these new appointments ensure that we have a ministerial team fully focused on tackling the many important challenges facing us.

“Mairi Gougeon has proven herself to be a highly-effective rural affairs minister working with stakeholders, balancing competing interests and taking on difficult policy challenges.

“She will now be part of the team protecting and improving Scotland’s public health and will play a key role in the pandemic, taking the lead on testing.

“Mairi will work alongside the new minister for drugs policy Angela Constance, who is tasked specifically with tackling what is another major public health emergency in Scotland.

“Ben Macpherson takes on the environment post at a critical time in our fight against climate change and as we take new steps to protect Scotland’s wonderful and diverse natural environment.

“Having previously worked on climate justice and climate finance, Ben will continue our work to protect wildlife, enhance biodiversity and support Scotland’s rural economy.

“With responsibility for migration, Jenny Gilruth will be working to tackle the demographic challenge threatening to undermine our economy and our society, and Ivan McKee will assist Kate Forbes in supporting firms through the pandemic, ensuring Scottish Government procurement backs Scottish business and in preparing our Budget early in the new year.”

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