Nicola Sturgeon wielded the axe yesterday as she delivered the most radical reshuffle and restructure of the Cabinet in the 11 years since the SNP took power.
On a day of drama at Holyrood, the first minister appointed five new Cabinet members, increasing the total from 10 to 12, while maintaining an overall gender balance.
But there was no place in Ms Sturgeon’s new team of “fresh talent” for her close friend Shona Robison, as the former health secretary departed along with Economy Secretary Keith Brown and Communities Secretary Angela Constance.
Ms Robison had been under pressure to quit following a series of controversies in the NHS in recent months and said in her resignation letter that the last year had been “particularly challenging” after losing both parents, having a health scare and “some big changes in my personal life”.
Three long-serving ministers also lost their jobs – including Western Isles MSP and former international development minister Alasdair Allan and Aberdeen South MSP and former mental health minister Maureen Watt.
A further shake-up of junior roles is expected today, with north and north-east MSPs Kate Forbes, Gail Ross and Gillian Martin among those tipped for jobs.
Former transport minister Humza Yousaf was promoted to justice secretary, Jeane Freeman was moved from the post of social security minister to replace Ms Robison as health secretary and Shirley-Anne Somerville takes on the new Cabinet role of social security and older people secretary.
Another newly-created Cabinet post will oversee transport, infrastructure and connectivity, with former justice secretary Michael Matheson appointed to the job.
Inverness and Nairn MSP Fergus Ewing will continue as rural economy secretary, despite losing the “connectivity” part of his brief to Mr Matheson.
Finance Secretary Derek Mackay now has a widened portfolio, taking on the “economy and fair work” section of the job formerly held by recently-elected SNP deputy leader Mr Brown, who now becomes the party’s standing campaigns director.
Argyll and Bute MSP and former Brexit Secretary Michael Russell joins the Cabinet to oversee government business and constitutional relations, while former public health minister Aileen Campbell is promoted to communities and local government secretary.
Education Secretary John Swinney, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham and Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop are the only members of the Cabinet to remain in posts which have not changed.
Ms Sturgeon said: “The new Cabinet I am announcing brings fresh talent to the Scottish Government and ensures that we are fully equipped to meet the challenges and opportunities facing the country in the months and years ahead.”
However, Scottish Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said the reshuffle had been promised a year ago and added: “There may well have been a few ministerial changes but this is an SNP government that is tired, completely out of ideas and all over the place on key issues.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s business manager Rhoda Grant said: “This reshuffle is long overdue but the real change Scotland wants and needs won’t come from changing the odd Cabinet secretary. It will come from changing the government.”