Fracking opponents have welcomed Fergus Ewing’s removal from the Scotland Government’s energy brief and called on his successor Keith Brown to ban the divisive gas extraction technology.
Mr Ewing, who has been promoted from energy minister to Rural Affairs Secretary, angered environmentalists when he announced a moratorium on fracking with the caveat “we should never close our minds to the potential opportunities of new technologies”.
Mr Brown will now co-ordinate energy policy as part of the newly-created portfolio of Economy, Jobs and Fair Work.
Patrick Harvie, co-convener of the Scottish Greens, said it was “pleasing” to see Mr Ewing removed from the energy brief.
“Fergus Ewing has described fracking as an opportunity we must never close our minds to,” he said.
“His successor, Keith Brown, can expect further pressure from Greens and others to turn the temporary moratorium into a permanent ban to protect our communities.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who defied a party conference vote in favour of fracking to advocate a ban in his 2016 manifesto, said: “Shifting Fergus Ewing away from fracking just exposes the fault lines in the SNP on the environment.”
Mr Brown expressed “serious concerns” about fracking during his failed bid for election as SNP deputy leader but backed the moratorium “until we can get a clearer picture of the situation”.
The SNP has come under internal pressure for a ban from a collective called SNP Members Against Unconventional Oil and Gas (Smaug).
David Lonsdale, director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, welcomed the First Minister’s “fresh focus on improving Scotland’s economy” with Mr Brown’s newly-minted portfolio, alongside Mr Ewing’s elevation to rural affairs and Derek Mackay’s appointment as Finance Secretary.
Colin Borland, of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Today’s unnerving job figures underline the importance of appointing a cabinet secretary dedicated to the economy.”
Nicola Barclay, chief executive of Homes for Scotland, said the Cabinet faces “numerous challenges that affect the delivery of much-needed new homes, particularly in relation to planning”.
Alex Rowley, deputy leader of Scottish Labour which has called for a 1p rise in income tax, said the Cabinet is now under pressure to meet the spending promises in the SNP’s manifesto.
“We know there are big cuts coming down the line, cuts that will close local NHS services and put the future of our education system at risk,” he said.
Larry Flanagan, general secretary of teaching union EIS, welcomed the announcement John Swinney is now in charge of education.
“The appointment of the Deputy First Minister to the post of Education Secretary is a clear indicator that the First Minister continues to view support for education as perhaps the top priority for the Scottish Government,” he said.
Vonnie Sandlan, president of NUS Scotland, said: “Putting the education brief in the hands of Scotland’s Deputy First Minister is a hopeful sign of intent and ambition.”
Dr Peter Bennie, chair of medical union BMA Scotland, welcomed the “continuity and experience” offered by Shona Robison in her continuing role as Health Secretary.
“There are significant pressures on Scotland’s NHS as demands on the health service increase far faster than available resources,” he said.
Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland, welcomed the appointment of Roseanna Cunningham as Scotland’s first dedicated Climate Change Secretary.
Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, called on new Rural Affairs Secretary Mr Ewing to prevent any negative impacts on the Scottish fleet from the phased introduction of a ban on discarding fish.