Humza Yousaf to appoint new transport minister at the start of next week after Kevin Stewart resignation
The First Minister will announce the appointment on Monday or Tuesday, The Scotsman understands.
It follows the resignation of Kevin Stewart after less than three months in the job. Mr Stewart, who was previously the minister for social care under Nicola Sturgeon, said he was stepping down due to poor mental health.
Mr Yousaf paid tribute to a "hard-working, loyal and dedicated minister".
The First Minister is under increasing pressure over Scotland's ailing ferry network. Islanders in South Uist have expressed outrage over CalMac’s decision to cut this month’s sailings between Mallaig and Lochboisdale.
MV Lord Of The Isles, the ferry that serves the route, has instead been moved to Islay due to the regular vessel there requiring repairs.
Speaking in Holyrood on Thursday, Mr Yousaf said compensation for islanders was "not off the table". Businesses have spoken of the devastating impact of the disruption.
Labour MSP Neil Bibby said “The next transport minister will inherit an overflowing in-tray and there shouldn’t be any delays in appointing someone.
“Scotland’s transport system is in a state of total chaos – from the ferry crisis to our collapsing bus networks to the delayed A9 dualling. Whoever takes over the job must get serious about building the green, affordable transport system Scotland urgently needs.”
CalMac’s ageing fleet of ferries have seen services impacted by breakdowns, with this sometimes resulting in vessels being taken off one route to serve another. The new transport minister will face calls to get a grip on the situation amid rising anger in island communities.
They will also face pressure over the ferries fiasco at Ferguson Marine shipyard in Port Glasgow. Last month, the Scottish Government revealed it would be cheaper to scrap one of the two vessels under construction and start again. However, it rejected this option as it would lead to further delays.
Questioned by journalists in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday, Mr Yousaf said a new transport minister would be appointed "soon".
He said: "We are looking to see what the options are, but let me take the opportunity to thank Kevin Stewart once again and also to say that I think it's exceptionally brave of him to talk about his mental health."
In his resignation statement, Mr Stewart said he had experienced bouts of poor mental health since October, with a low ebb in early December. He added: “Over the last week or so I have once again been feeling unwell and I feel that I can no longer put in the hours required to serve both my constituents and hold ministerial office, whilst also trying to maintain good mental health.”
Transport falls under the portfolio held by Mairi McAllan, the Cabinet secretary for net zero and just transition.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The role of Cabinet secretary for net zero and just transition includes transport as a responsibility. The First Minister will announce a new minister in due course.”
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