Mr Brown’s departure from the Cabinet was announced by the First Minister as she confirmed speculation that a reshuffle is on the cards. The demotion of Mr Brown from the Cabinet was announced in a SNP statement saying he would “dedicate his time and energy” to his role of depute party leader becoming “standing campaign director” for the SNP.
He will have responsibility for policy development, preparation for future elections, including a snap UK contest, and “building the case for Scotland to become an independent country”.
As depute, Mr Brown will lead a series of National Assemblies to discuss Andrew Wilson’s independence blueprint. He will also look forward to the 2021 Holyrood elections.
Ms Sturgeon also said Derek Mackay will stand down as SNP business convener after seven years at party conference in October. Mr Mackay’s replacement will be announced in the autumn.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Keith has done an excellent job as a government minister over many years and has many achievements that he can be very proud of, including overseeing the construction of the magnificent new Queensferry Crossing.
“However, he and I have decided that the time is right to ensure that the energies of the SNP leader and depute leader team are focused not just on delivering a strong SNP Government, but also a party operation that is from top to bottom, fit and ready for the opportunities that lie ahead.
“Keith’s decision to be a dedicated depute leader will enable him to steer the party’s policy development, engage and motivate our expanded membership, get us ready for future elections, and develop the case for independence.
“To ensure we can deliver the best future for Scotland we must be ready for a snap UK election at any time, and we must also begin the hard work of building a policy platform on which to seek the support of the people of Scotland in the next Holyrood election.
“We must also make sure that the voice, expertise, energies and ideas of our expanded membership are harnessed.”
Mr Brown said: “It is a huge honour to have been elected depute leader of the SNP and I want to give my all to the role.
“Over the last few weeks, the public outcry over the Tory power grab has led to a further increase in our party membership and a refreshed debate about independence – and so it has become clear to me that we must capitalise on this moment.
“The First Minister and I have agreed that, as part of the leadership team, I should dedicate my time and energy to the role of depute leader – effectively becoming the standing campaign director of the party – and lead work to build our policy platform, ensure we are ready for an early general election should it happen, build and strengthen the case for independence and start to lay the foundations for the 2021 Holyrood election.”