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.