Following yesterday’s big news that Mairi Gougeon has been appointed the new Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs & Islands (here), to replace the Scottish Gamekeepers’ ‘friend in Government‘, Fergus Ewing, now there’s even more promising news.
Nicola Sturgeon has reshuffled her junior ministerial team as well and has appointed Mairi McAllan as the new Minister for Environment, Biodiversity and Land Reform.
Ben Macpherson, who was the previous Environment Minister for just a few months has been moved across to social security and local government.
Mairi’s appointment came as some surprise but when you look a bit more closely it perhaps shouldn’t have been.
Mairi McAllan was a first-time SNP MSP candidate in Clydesdale before almost immediately landing the Ministerial role. The speed of that appointment makes more sense when you realise what Mairi did before she stood for election – she was a special advisor to Nicola Sturgeon on climate change, environment, land reform and renewable energy policy.
And she knows her stuff. Some of you might have heard her at Revive’s political hustings in April (see here – video still available to watch and I recommend you do). She’s another intelligent and articulate politician and she appears to be up to speed on raptor persecution – a quote from her opening speech at the Revive hustings on the Government’s response to the Werritty Review:
“We will not wait five years to implement [Werritty’s recommendation to introduce a licensing scheme for grouse shooting] because quite frankly we can’t afford to wait five years, that could make it eight years and we think there is evidence now that self-regulation is not working“.
Mairi’s background as a solicitor will stand her in good stead for being a law-maker and her experience as a human rights activist with a legal organisation she co-founded, ‘aiming to use the law as a tool in the fight for social justice’ is a principle that will be recognised and supported by those who also support Wild Justice.
Dare I say it…there is an almost tangible sense of optimism in the air about this new Rural Affairs/Environment team, and, let’s be honest, although a lot of that is also about the unexpected but nevertheless very welcome departure from influence of Fergus Ewing, the calibre of the latest Cab Sec and Minister is pretty bloody encouraging.
I think this is only going in one direction now.