Mairi Gougeon has been named as the new Scottish cabinet secretary for rural affairs and islands.
The post includes responsibility for fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture, and food and drink policy, as well as cross-government co-ordination of policies for island communities.
She replaces Fergus Ewing, who left the government in the cabinet reshuffle that followed the SNP’s victory in the Scottish parliament elections at the start of May.
Mairi Gougeon (36) has been the MSP for Angus North and Mearns since 2016. Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, congratulated Ms Gougeon on her appointment to the rural affairs cabinet post. She said: “We look forward to engaging at the earliest opportunity on the many challenges that confront the sector.” She also thanked outgoing fisheries secretary Fergus Ewing, who has stood down from the government, ‘for his support, commitment and willingness to listen to the industry’.
Mairi Gougeon has experience of the fishing and seafood industry, as she previously served as junior minister for rural affairs and the natural environment. She held that post for over two years, until she became minister for public health last December. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon previously described the Angus North and Mearns MSP as a ‘highly effective rural affairs minister working with stakeholders, balancing competing interests and taking on difficult policy challenges’.
Mairi Gougeon graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a degree in history in 2007, and was elected as a councillor representing Brechin and Edzell from 2007 to 2017.
Fergus Ewing, who had been cabinet secretary for rural affairs since 2016, was viewed by his critics as a conservative force on environment and rural policy. Last year he was the focus of bullying allegations involving government officials, which he has denied.
Mairi Gougeon wrote on Twitter: “It’s such an incredible honour to be appointed cabinet secretary for rural affairs and islands and to be part of this amazing team. I follow the inimitable Fergus Ewing and know first-hand how hard he worked on behalf of Scotland’s farmers and fishers.”
This story was taken from the latest issue of Fishing News. For more up-to-date and in-depth reports on the UK and Irish commercial fishing sector, subscribe to Fishing News here or buy the latest single issue for just £3.30 here.