Well this is good news!
In today’s Cabinet reshuffle, Roseanna Cunningham MSP has just been appointed the new Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, following the departure of Richard Lochhead.
Interestingly, the title of this position, and the portfolio remit, has been changed. Roseanna’s responsibilities will be for climate change, flood prevention, water quality, land reform, physical and marine environment, sustainable development, biodiversity, natural heritage, environmental protection, environmental and climate justice, National parks, and Scottish Water.
The other responsibilities previously associated with this post (Rural Scotland, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, aquaculture, food and drink, and crofting) are now the responsibility of newly appointed Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy and Connectivity, Fergus Ewing MSP.
This might not be the best news for those working in conservation within the agricultural sector but it’s very good news for us. It means that Roseanna Cunningham will be able to take a closer interest in environment/wildlife issues than could her predecessor, as well as land reform. She’s definitely seen as left-of-centre of her party and is no friend of the big landed estates, so they won’t be happy with this new appointment.
Roseanna brings a lot of experience to her new role, having formerly been the Environment Minister between 2009-2011. During her time in that role she was responsible for introducing an amendment to the WANE bill for the addition of vicarious liability for estates where raptor persecution was still prevalent (see here) and she also was pretty firm that the Scottish Government would not entertain the idea of introducing licences to kill protected raptors (see here).
It wasn’t all plain sailing though. She was the Minister who rejected an amendment to the WANE bill for increased powers for the SSPCA, although she did temper this by saying that the issue should first go to public consultation. This was procedurally cautious, although in hindsight was a fair move. Little did she or we realise that five years later we’d still be waiting for the Government to act on this issue (see here).
We welcome Roseanna’s appointment and trust she will bring a new level of leadership to the table. However, much will depend on who becomes her junior Minister for the Environment (still to be announced).
UPDATE 6pm: No junior ministerial role for Environment (here).