Page last updated at 13:08 GMT, Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Ministers sacked in SNP reshuffle

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond thanked the departing ministers for their work

Alex Salmond has sacked three ministers from the Scottish Government in his first reshuffle since taking power.

Culture minister Linda Fabiani, schools minister Maureen Watt and housing and sports minister Stewart Maxwell all lost their jobs.

Environment Minister Mike Russell has taken over culture, and his brief was beefed up to include the constitution.

Fellow backbenchers Alex Neil, Keith Brown and Roseanna Cunningham all picked up ministerial posts.

The Scottish Cabinet has remained unchanged.

Opposition parties hit out at the appointments.

The Tories questioned the timing of the reshuffle, suggesting the focus on the bankers being quizzed by MPs at Westminster made it "a good day to bury a bad ministerial team".

Under the new set-up, Mr Neil was handed the revamped post of communities and housing minister, while Ms Cunningham has taken over Mr Russell's environment responsibilities.

Mr Brown has become education minister for schools and skills.

The reshuffle is the first since Alex Salmond became First Minister 20 months ago

Mr Salmond said the time was right to bring in new talent, as the SNP approached the mid-point of its parliamentary term in government.

He thanked the departed ministers for their work, adding: "There have been no failures in the ministerial team, but I have asked them to make way to give colleagues an opportunity to show what they can contribute."

The first minister went on: "The SNP group is extremely fortunate in having such a strong team of backbenchers and the purpose of the reshuffle is to give talented individuals such as Alex Neil, Roseanna Cunningham and Keith Brown the opportunity to make their contribution to government and the delivery of vital public services for the Scottish people."

Public Health Minister Shona Robison has had sport added to her responsibilities.

Scottish Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser said Mr Salmond should have taken an axe his cabinet, rather than "knifing a few junior ministers".

'Loyalty rewarded'

He added: "Considering everything else going on today, both at Westminster and at Holyrood, some might say this was a good day to bury a bad ministerial team."

Mike Rumbles, the Liberal Democrat chief whip, said: "I'm delighted that Alex Neil's ultra loyalty has finally been rewarded. The lesson of this reshuffle is that slavish adoration of the first minister pays dividends."

Labour health spokesman Cathy Jamieson said Mr Maxwell had paid the price for failing to tackle housing issues, adding: "The number of new homes being built in our two biggest cities is falling off the edge of a cliff.

"The Scottish Federation of Housing Associations reports that its members are being forced to reduce their ambitions and shelve badly needed developments because of funding cuts by the SNP government."

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Reshuffle - Who's in and who's out
10 Feb 09 |  Scotland

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