Fergus Ewing out, Mairi Gougeon in – Scottish Cabinet reshuffle revealed

Well this is very very very good news indeed.

Nicola Sturgeon has announced her reshuffled Cabinet team; former Rural Affairs Cabinet Secretary Fergus Ewing is no longer in the Cabinet at all and former junior Rural Affairs Minister Mairi Gougeon has been promoted to the position of Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands.

There is likely to be some cross-over with Mairi’s role and that of Michael Matheson who is the new Cab Sec for Net Zero, Energy & Transport, which will include working on the climate emergency (think muirburn).

I’m absolutely delighted and judging by the number of texts I’ve received this morning, I’m not alone.

I don’t intend to comment on the departure of Fergus ‘friend of the Scottish Gamekeepers Association‘ Ewing other than to say, goodbye.

Mairi Gougeon is a brilliant choice for Cab Sec. She is an intelligent, dynamic and often thoughtful politician who has not been afraid to speak out against the persecution of the hen harrier in her role as a junior Minister and Hen Harrier Species Champion. She has taken an active role, even prior to her appointment as a junior Minister, asking questions about the Government’s commitment to tackling raptor persecution (here), attending and speaking at Hen Harrier Day events (e.g. here), taking the time to accompany raptor fieldworkers in to the field to understand more about this species’ ecology and its perilous conservation status (e.g. here and here), has initiated Parliamentary debates on hen harrier conservation (e.g. here) and has supported the Scottish Raptor Study Group at Holyrood gatherings (e.g. here).

[Mairi Gougeon beaming after a visit to watch hen harriers with members of the Scottish Raptor Study Group a couple of years ago in her role as Hen Harrier Species Champion]

I haven’t always agreed with her earlier thinking on how raptor persecution should be tackled (e.g. see here, and here) and I have criticised her for her silence in response to some brutal, sadistic crimes against birds of prey on Scottish grouse moors (here) but her delivery of the Government’s response to the Werritty Review back in November 2020 revealed an increased understanding of the issues and a sign of a genuine commitment to changing the status quo (here).

Last week, author Jim Crumley wrote an excellent piece about the need for a new Environment Secretary ‘who will act’ (here). I have high hopes that Mairi Gougeon will be that Cab Sec (albeit under a new title).

Congratulations, Mairi, there are many of us looking forward to supporting your efforts.

The new junior Ministerial team, working in support of the Cabinet Secretaries, is expected to be unveiled shortly.

25 thoughts on “Fergus Ewing out, Mairi Gougeon in – Scottish Cabinet reshuffle revealed”

  1. This is indeed excellent news. Let’s hope that Scotland can now lead the way to a better future for all of our wildlife, with the resultant boost for tourism that will be bound to follow.

  2. Schadenfreude is not an attractive trait but it’s hard not to feel a frisson or two of delight at the likely reaction to this news by many devoted supporters of DGS.  When this is reported in the national press there will be some choking on cornflakes. The contrast between the outgoing and incoming holder of this post could scarcely be starker. Let’s hope it signals a real determination to deal with those involved in wildlife crime. As we have seen elsewhere pressure still needs to be maintained on politicians to do the right thing but nobody can doubt that Raptor Persecution UK will be applying it where & when needed. 

  3. So glad to see the back of Fergus Ewing, the most ineffective politician in the Scottish Parliament. Hopefully more Raptors will be seen in Scottish skies with Mairi in post.
    A Happy Scot.

  4. Certainly a positive step forward. Cannot imagine Hogwash, Burnett, Baynes and co welcoming this so it puts a smile on my face.

    1. I’d like to have an ear to the door of the world renowned Bothy next time the boys get together. There might be a bit o’ greetin & choking on jock pies when the subject of that sleekit wee lassie in her townie coat comes up!

  5. Excellent! Excellent! It appears that the government IS listening, so let’s not be coy – let’s commend the SNP government and Nicola Sturgeon for taking a real positive step. It needs to be backed up by actions of course, but hopes are certainly raised.

  6. From the perspective of climate change, environmental protection, walking and cycling, fairness and equality this is potentially the best Cabinet assembled since the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999.

  7. Just as Nicola Sturgeon is hearing everybody talking about the upcoming referendum so Gougeon should be hearing about the upcoming licencing of grouse shoots and the banning of muirburn. The minister for Net zero carbon emissions and environment protection should expect nothing less.

    Sometime events are outwith a politicians control and the political agenda gets set without their involvement. A failure to respond to the will of the people means the politician is out on the street at the next election. This is one of those times. Gougeon if she has any further political aspirations beyond the 2023 referendum would be well advised to pay heed.

  8. This can’t be anything less than a strong and direct signal that the status quo isn’t good enough anymore. I can’t imagine Fergus wanted this, being where he was was very good for certain people, in return the support he received from them would have been very good for him. It’s almost as if he’s had his legs cut off, he’s a bit adrift now. I’ve always thought that watershed moments for the anti DGS movement would be when the first Tory politician publicly breaks ranks and states their opposition to DGS on one or many grounds. Another could be when a community forms an anti DGs group in response to it being imposed upon their locality and economy. I think Fergus getting the boot could very well be another – has a tipping point been reached where it’s been realised that politically supporting the usual suspects is more detrimental than beneficial? It appears so and it’s just going to keep on in the same direction. The thought that Fergus has had a bit of a public slap across his mug and that his pals will be angry/disappointed/pissed off brings not a little joy.

  9. At last! some excellent positive news. The future is looking brighter with this move in the right direction.

  10. This is excellent news! The previous incumbent was barely noticeable and Fergus Ewing was too cosy with the” enemy”

    Sent from my iPhone


  11. The SNP Gov. at best has had a very lacklustre environmental performance during the past 14 years (Meanie Estate, Hill-tracks, Sporting rates, DGM licences, inappropriate micro-hydro, no oversight on wind farm construction failing to comply with planning regs viz reclamation post construction and sediment load to water courses…to name but a few) when it has acted it’s only because forced. Excuse me while I wait for substantive action, before reassessing.

  12. I emailed Mairi Gougeon last November to congratulate her on the decision to develop an immediate licensing scheme for driven grouse shooting. I have only ever emailed Fergus Ewing to complain about the way he acted in his post. I think he was really a tartan Tory who got to where he did in politics due to his Mothers justifiably formidable reputation.
    This could, and should, be the start of great changes for Scotland’s raptors and the beginning of the end for DGS in Scotland.

    1. I think you’re right, this was a very high profile and significant change. I can’t see any reaction to this on the SGA face book page yet. I think they’re dumbfounded, and don’t want to insult new minister.

  13. Good news and a step forward. A Hen Harrier species champion as well. Let’s hope Mairi can stand up to the boards of NatureScot and CNPA. In my experience, dealing with them on issues regarding driven grouse moors feels more like dealing with MI6 than the public funded agencies they are.

  14. Having worked hard (along with many others) to get Mairi Gougeon re-elected, this new post is wonderful news and just when I thought it couldn’t get much better, I saw that Fergus Ewing is no longer the Cabinet Secretary and both pieces of news together, made my WEEK!

  15. AberdeenshireWander
    May 19, 2021 at 5:12 pm wrote :-

    “The SNP Gov. at best has had a very lacklustre environmental performance during the past 14 years (Meanie Estate, Hill-tracks, Sporting rates, DGM licences, inappropriate micro-hydro, no oversight on wind farm construction failing to comply with planning regs viz reclamation post construction and sediment load to water courses…to name but a few) when it has acted it’s only because forced. Excuse me while I wait for substantive action, before reassessing.”

    Yes, I concur.

    Different bums on old seats. A government with a catalogue promises and claims to good intentions.

    The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    The required objectives are clear and indisputable. Stop the wildlife crime and create a climate in which the criminals and protagonists cannot operate.

    Judge the government exclusively on results.

  16. Lets give her all the support she will need. There will be a period of quiet before Scotland’s landowning/game shooting mafia come out guns blazing. The wildlife criminals will not go down quietly..given the grouse moor owning english equivalent separation is even more important – I wonder how much this shuffle is a reaction to the rise of the Greens in that election?

  17. Wonderful news that Fergus has been let go, lets hope Mairie can
    step up to the job in hand! I get the feeling she has a tough job on her hands.

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