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Sturgeon unveils new Cabinet team

The new Scottish Cabinet has been unveiled by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Ms Sturgeon revealed her new team, which has a 50-50 gender split, at an event in Edinburgh just two days after becoming leader of the Government.

John Swinney has been appointed Deputy First Minister, and also retains his brief as Finance Secretary.

Michael Russell has made way for Angela Constance as the new Education Secretary, and Michael Matheson takes over from Kenny MacAskill with the justice portfolio.

Former sports secretary Shona Robison has been promoted to Health Secretary, with Alex Neil moving to the role of Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Communities and Pensioners' Rights.

Former legal affairs minister Roseanna Cunningham is now Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training, while ex-transport minister Keith Brown takes on the role of Secretary for Infrastructure, Investment and Cities.

Richard Lochhead and Fiona Hyslop are staying on in their roles as Environment Secretary and Culture Secretary respectively.

Revealing her Cabinet at her official residence Bute House, Ms Sturgeon said: "This new Cabinet is a team of all the talents, which will take forward this Government's priorities for Scotland.

"The aims of my Government are clear: to create a nation that is both socially democratic and socially just, a nation that is confident in itself and governed effectively and a nation which will address poverty, support business, promote growth and tackle inequality.

"The new Cabinet team I have announced today will pursue these priorities with verve, vigour and determination."

Ms Sturgeon pledged to deliver on gender equality when she became Scotland's first female First Minister earlier this week.

"Every member of the Cabinet is part of this Government's top team on merit, on the basis of the excellent work they have already done as ministers.

"The Cabinet line-up is also a clear demonstration that this Government will work hard in all areas to promote women, to create gender equality and it sends out a strong message that we will start the business of redressing the gender balance in public life, starting right here in Government.

"I said earlier this week that we will be leading by example on equal representation and encourage others to follow by addressing low pay and improving childcare. The Cabinet appointments I have made today will ensure these issues have the highest priority."

Commenting on the departure of long-serving members Mr Russell and Mr MacAskill, she added: "I also want to take the opportunity to thank outgoing cabinet secretaries Kenny MacAskill and Mike Russell for their sterling work in government.

"I am confident that we are now equipped with the men and women who will go forward and deliver on these aspirations to create a better Scotland."

Scottish Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said: "I congratulate the new Cabinet Secretaries on their appointment and welcome them to their posts. I also welcome the fact that there is a balance of 50/50 between women and men in the top posts.

"Having listened to the First Minister's call for consensus yesterday I look forward to them supporting Labour's policies to tackle the many problems that their predecessors have left for them. It's time to put the referendum result behind us and get on with governing the country for the benefit of the people of Scotland."

Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "Nicola Sturgeon likes to talk liberal but the real test is whether she'll walk liberal. The SNP cabinet stood behind Kenny MacAskill's illiberal centralisation agenda at every twist and turn.

"A change of the guards must mark the beginning of a change in approach if this damning indictment of Kenny MacAskill's legacy is to carry any weight. Until the industrial levels of stop and search, the centralisation of local justice and plans to scrap corroboration are consigned to the same fate as Mr MacAskill, Scottish Liberal Democrats will remain the only party standing up for a liberal, fairer Scotland."

Junior ministerial appointments will be announced later today.

Ms Sturgeon said Mr Russell and Mr MacAskill had indicated that they wanted to step down from ministerial roles.

"Both of them felt they'd made a big contribution, that the time was right for them to demit ministerial office," she said.

Asked whether Mr MacAskill's departure was an acknowledgement that the Government had got things wrong on justice, Ms Sturgeon said: "I pay tribute to Kenny MacAskill. Kenny MacAskill is the justice secretary who has ensured that there are 1,000 more police officers on the streets of our country and has presided over a fall in crime that has led to the position where crime is now at a 40-year low.

"He has significant achievements to his name and he should be very proud of that.

"Kenny MacAskill and Mike Russell both intimated to me that they felt the time was right to step down from government and again I thank them for the contribution that they've made."

Ms Sturgeon also said she believed both men would "continue to make a very strong contribution to Scottish politics".

She said she hoped the 50-50 gender split of the cabinet would encourage others across the public and private sector to "follow suit" and to make sure they are working to achieve gender balance in the workplace.

She added: "Beyond that, I think it leads to better decision making, not just in government but across the public and private sector."

The First Minister said the Government's priorities would be to promote a strong economy, protect public services and tackle poverty and inequality.

She said: "Those priorities are fully reflected in the shape of the cabinet that I'm announcing today.

"This is a team that I will be very proud to lead; a team I have huge confidence in. Our job, collectively now, is to govern well and to serve Scotland. All of us are looking forward to getting on with that job."

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