Warm welcome for Gougeon as Ewing steps down

Following a brief spell as minister for public health and sport, Angus North and Mearns MSP, Mairi Gougeon has returned to head up her former department after being appointed to the role of cabinet secretary for Rural Affairs and the Islands yesterday in a cabinet reshuffle.

Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, arrives for the announcement of the new Cabinet by the First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in Edinburgh. Picture date: Wednesday May 19, 2021. PA Photo. Photo credit should read: Andrew Milligan/PA Wire

The appointment of Gougeon, who served as minster for Rural Affairs and the Environment under Fergus Ewing between June 2018 and December 2020, was widely welcomed by the sector which is facing a crucial time, with Covid recovery, climate change and post-Brexit policy all high on the agenda.

Her new post includes responsibility for agriculture, food and drink policy, fisheries and aquaculture as well as cross-government co-ordination of policies for island communities.

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Michael Matheson MSP has been appointed cabinet secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport and will cover the environmental protection brief.

Welcoming the entire new cabinet team, NFU Scotland president, Martin Kennedy said the redesigning of roles on matters affecting the Scottish rural economy and the environment brought a fresh dynamic at a pivotal time for the industry.

“We are emerging into a post-CAP, post-Brexit, post-pandemic era where the Scottish government has a unique opportunity to put the nation’s farming and food industries at the very heart of our green recovery and our response to addressing climate change and protecting biodiversity in Scotland,” said Kennedy.

He raised hopes that the new cabinet secretary would drive forward the recommendations of the farmer-led climate change groups, a legacy of Ewing’s term in the post.

“We are keen to drive forward the excellent work recently undertaken by the five groups – Hill, Upland and Crofting; Suckler Beef; Arable; Dairy and Pigs - and hope to meet with the Cabinet Secretary and her new team once they have settled into post.”

Kennedy also paid tribute to Ewing’s period of tenure of the rural sector, terming him a hard-working cabinet secretary genuinely interested in the farming industry and who always sought to deliver an outcome that would help all farmers.

“We wish Fergus and his family well and we are certain that his position as an MSP in a rural constituency like Inverness and Nairn means farming issues are never likely to be far from his door.

“Any requests for communication or action on any topic have been met with a quick response.

"We may not have been 100 percent in agreement on all issues but that is the nature of politics and it is clear to us that our industry held Fergus in high regard.

“He has steered Scottish agriculture at a time of great change, negotiating our transition into the start of a new post-CAP, post-Brexit era.”

Scottish Land and Estates (SLE) chief executive, Sarah-Jane Laing also extended her organisation’s thanks to Ewing.

She said no one could have doubted his commitment to farming, rural business, sustainable rural development and reforestation, and said she looked forward to working with Gougeon.

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