Jenny Gilruth starts her new job as Scotland’s transport minister with a long list of challenges, just two months before the railways are set to be nationalised.
She takes over from Angus South MSP Graeme Dey, who unexpectedly quit on Monday after being in the high-pressure post for eight months.
He had served as minister for parliamentary business and veterans before being promoted following May’s Scottish Parliament election.
The 59-year-old previously described the transport brief as “busier” and “a lot more intense” than his previous job.
He is expected to take some time away from parliament but will remain as an MSP.
Long list of challenges
Ms Gilruth, MSP for Mid Fife and Glenrothes, will now have to manage the end of Abellio’s ScotRail franchise, ongoing ferry disruption and construction delays, work to reduce carbon emissions and the row over dualling the A9 and A96.
The future of some projects has appeared uncertain since the SNP and Greens entered into a power-sharing deal at Holyrood last year.
The coalition announced plans to dual the length of the A96 Aberdeen-Inverness route would be subject to an “evidence-based” climate review, with the findings not due to be published until the end of this year.
Scottish Rail Holdings, the new public body created to oversee Scotland’s trains, takes over from Dutch state-owned company Abellio in two months.
I find myself unable now to give this hugely important ministerial role everything it rightly requires and deserves.
– Graeme Dey
In his resignation letter to the first minister, Mr Dey said it was an “absolute privilege” to serve as a minister in the Scottish Government but he has found himself unable to give the role “everything it rightly requires and deserves”.
He wrote: “I have always prided myself of being able to give 100% to any task I am charged with.
“Regrettably, despite my continuing passion, I find myself unable now to give this hugely important ministerial role everything it rightly requires and deserves.
“It is therefore with regret that I am writing to resign from office as minister for transport in the Scottish Government.
“This is entirely for personal reasons relating to my health and wellbeing.”
Ms Sturgeon said Mr Dey had been a “highly effective” minister and he would be welcome to rejoin her government in future.
“This is the right decision for Graeme to reach at this time, and he leaves government with my very best wishes,” she said.
A new transport minister
Ms Gilruth was quickly moved from her post as minister for culture, Europe and international development to take up the role.
The Scottish Government confirmed that as a member of the “net zer”o portfolio also held by Michael Matheson, she will play a “key role” in ensuring Scotland meets it climate targets.
Ms Gilruth said: “The transport portfolio is an exciting opportunity to not just shape the infrastructure of our country but to also help Scotland become a world leader in achieving our goal to become net zero by 2045.”
Earlier, we revealed Airdrie and Shotts MSP Neil Gray was being tipped for a promotion to allow changes in the ranks.
He is now in line to take on the culture, Europe and international development brief.
The MSP was the SNP work and pensions spokesman at Westminster from 2015 until his resignation last year to run for the Scottish Parliament.
He said: “It is an honour to be asked to join the Scottish Government.
“I look forward to building on the great work of my predecessor by further strengthening our relations across the globe and supporting the creative industries as they set out to recover from some of the hardest years for the sector in recent memory.”
A vote of confidence
The first minister described the appointments as a “vote of confidence in a new generation of ministerial talent”.
“Jenny has proven herself to be an effective representative for Scotland and has championed Scotland’s cultural sector through difficult times,” Ms Sturgeon said.
“Neil has shown real promise as convener of the social justice and social security committee in his short time in Holyrood and I know he will bring the drive, passion and determination he has shown in parliament into government.”