Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed her appointment of a replacement for Ash Regan as community safety minister in the wake of her resignation over gender reform proposals.
Elena Whitham will take up the post subject to approval from the Scottish Parliament and His Majesty The King.
Regan stood down from the role after defying the SNP whip to vote against the introduction of the Gender Recognition Reform (Scotland) Bill last Thursday.
The former minister said she was “not against reforms” which would simplify the process by which people can obtain a gender recognition certificate, but was unable to back the proposals as she was not “100% sure that women and girls would not be in danger”.
Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley MSP Whitham, who previously spent a decade as a Women’s Aid worker in Ayrshire supporting women and children experiencing domestic abuse, will report to the cabinet secretary for justice and veterans.
Sturgeon thanked Regan for her previous work in the role, which included revising legislation around the control and sale of fireworks.
She added: “I’m pleased to appoint Elena to her first Ministerial position, which has cross-cutting responsibilities across Scotland’s fire service, our justice system, and the prevention of violence against women and girls.
“I’m confident Elena’s professional and personal experience will stand her in good stead for this role and I look forward to working with her to improve the safety of communities across the country.”
Nine SNP MSPs defied the party whip during the vote – the biggest backbench rebellion to hit the party since it assumed power in 2007.
The First Minister said she was surprised at Regan’s departure, claiming in a letter: “At no stage have you approached me…to raise your concerns about the Gender Recognition Reform Bill or the vote.”
However, Regan said Sturgeon did know her position on the vote at Holyrood last week, which passed 88 votes in favour to 33 against, with four abstentions.