John Swinney said he is “honoured” to have been made Scotland’s Covid Recovery Secretary as Nicola Sturgeon announced the first move in her post-election cabinet reshuffle.
The First Minister revealed Mr Swinney was being given the new role – which will see him moved from the job of Education Secretary.
Ms Sturgeon, who confirmed Mr Swinney would remain as her Deputy First Minister, said making him Covid Recovery Secretary would be a “key step in getting Scotland’s recovery off to the right start”.
Mr Swinney said on Twitter serving as Education Secretary for the past five years had been a “privilege”, as he wished his successor well.
But it came after Labour had called for him to be sacked from his education brief for a “litany of failures”.
Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “It is right that John Swinney has been moved on from his previous role. He has left a wake of damaging failures behind him that require urgent action to fix. ”
But she added: “Putting him in charge of our recovery is potentially gambling with the health and well-being of the nation.
“While we wish him well, he must demonstrate quickly that he is up to the job.”
Earlier, Labour education spokesman Michael Marra had claimed that “time and time again, he has failed to meet the challenge posed by the pandemic”, claiming that Mr Swinney had now “led the pupils of Scotland into yet another exams crisis”.
The Labour MSP added: “John Swinney’s failings began before the pandemic. Educational standards have fallen on his watch, and the scandal that is the attainment gap has persisted stubbornly.”
Mr Swinney’s new role will see him take responsibility across the Scottish Government for action to deliver the coronavirus recovery, as well as working with the public, private and voluntary sector.
In addition he will chair a cross party steering group on Covid recovery, which is expected to meet for the first time this week.
Announcing the appointment Ms Sturgeon said: “Appointing John Swinney to drive cross government work on Covid Recovery is a key step in getting Scotland’s recovery off to the right start.
“How we begin our recovery is crucial to the kind of country we can become, and that means ensuring everyone, whether in government, the public sector, the business community or wider society is pulling in the same direction.”
In addition to this work on Covid recovery, the Deputy First Minister will take the lead on intergovernmental relations, and for delivering what the Scottish Government ailed as “transformational projects” to incorporate UN Human Rights Treaties into Scots law and the deliver improvements for young people who have been in care.
Mr Swinney said: “Recovery in our schools, our health service, our economy and across our wider society is this government’s immediate priority and I am honoured to have been asked to lead that mission.
“I am determined that government will bring the same urgency that we applied to the actions we took to protect public health, to the actions we need to take to secure a fair and just recovery.
“I will be bringing opposition parties together next week to hear their contributions and to set out how I believe we can all work together to secure a strong recovery.
“As we recover we must also remember our commitments to improve the lives of people across our society and it is a privilege to continue to lead the work across government to deliver on the incorporation of UN charters and to deliver The Promise for our care experienced young people.”
This latest cabinet reshuffle comes after a number of ministers left the Scottish Government at May’s Holyrood election, with Constitution Secretary Mike Russell, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell all stepping down from the Scottish Parliament, while energy minister Paul Wheelhouse failed to be re-elected.