Cunningham named Scottish Environment Secretary

Roseanna Cunningham has accepted a front-bench environmental role in the Scottish Government and will replace Richard Lochhead, who has stepped down as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment.

Cunningham was appointed yesterday (18 May) and will hold the newly created title of Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

The role, which will now include responsibilities for climate change issues, is the first time climate change has had a dedicated cabinet secretary in the Scottish Government.  Rural affairs, previously handled by Lochhead, will now be the responsibility of the Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy, Fergus Ewing.

The new role will also cover sustainable development, biodiversity, natural heritage, environmental protection and justice as well as national parks. 

Cunningham, who previously served as Minister for the Environment from 2009 to 2011, will also have responsibility for the marine environment and issues such as flood prevention and water quality.

Cunningham’s background

Cunningham rose to political prominence when she became an MP to the UK Parliament in a 1995 by-election, when she was elected to represent Perth and Kinross. The constituency was later replaced by the constituency for Perth, which has now also been abolished, which Cunningham represented until 2001, standing down to concentrate on the Scottish Parliament. She had become a Scottish MP for the newly-created constituency Perth South and Kinross-shire in 1999 and still holds this position.

She was the frontrunner in the 2004 race to become the leader of the SNP but came second to Alex Salmond, who went on to be First Minister for Scotland, and appointed Cunningham Minister for the Environment within the Scottish Government in 2009, a role which was changed to include climate change in 2010.

She became Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs in 2011 and was then promoted to Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training.

Her new role will underline the Scottish Government’s ‘ambitious plans to further reduce carbon emissions, protect and enhance Scotland’s environment and take forward government’s work on land reform’, according to a government statement.

Outgoing Cabinet Minister Richard Lochhead, who oversaw the development of the Household Recycling Charter, stepped down prior to the cabinet reshuffle to spend more time with his wife and children.  He will, however, continue to serve as an MSP for the Moray constituency.

Climate change one of ‘defining challenges of our generation’

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “[W]ith climate change one of the defining challenges of our generation, I can confirm Roseanna Cunningham will take up the new post of Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform. As well as driving forward work to allow Scotland to meet its ambitious climate change targets, Roseanna will have responsibility for implementation of our radical land reform agenda.

“The cabinet I have announced today will ensure our priorities of education and the economy are given fresh impetus; our public services are reformed and improved and we are able to respond to challenges such as climate change in the years to come.

“The new Scottish Government team has the right mixture of experience and fresh ideas and maintains the gender balance that I believe is important. It is the best team to take Scotland forward.”

Working to ensure Scotland reaps circular benefits

Commenting on Lochhead's reisgnation and Cunningham's appointment, Iain Gulland, Chief Executive, Zero Waste Scotland, said: “We are privileged to have been able to work alongside Richard Lochhead to help drive Scotland’s progress to a zero waste society. He has brought an inspiring level of vision and leadership to his nine year tenure as Cabinet Secretary, and his accomplishments have contributed to Scotland becoming world-renowned in its efforts to drive forward the circular economy agenda. His legacy will live on, for example, in his determination to introduce an EU-first food waste reduction target for Scotland, as well as in the hugely successful carrier bag charge, which has slashed bag use by an astonishing 80 per cent.

“We now look forward to a new chapter, working with Roseanna Cunningham, the new Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, and with other ministerial colleagues to ensure Scotland reaps the benefits of a more productive, lower carbon circular economy.”