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Richard Lochhead to make ministerial return

Richard Lochhead has been nominated for a new ministerial role in further and higher education (Danny Lawson/PA)
Richard Lochhead has been nominated for a new ministerial role in further and higher education (Danny Lawson/PA)

Richard Lochhead is to return to the Scottish Government’s ministerial team after more than two years away from the front benches.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced her intention to appoint the former rural affairs secretary to be the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.

Mr Lochhead, who stepped back from government in 2016 for family reasons, said he was “honoured and privileged” to be asked to rejoin the team.

The role was initially to have been filled by Gillian Martin but Ms Sturgeon dropped the MSP’s ministerial nomination in June following a row over “inappropriate” language in a blog.

The Scottish Government said Mr Lochhead, the SNP MSP for Moray, will be able to undertake some ministerial duties immediately and is expected to be put forward for approval by Parliament next week.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Richard brings his significant experience to the role, having previously served in government for nine years and I’m pleased he has agreed to become the new Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science.

“He has been a hugely successful campaigning MSP in parliament over the last two years, particularly over the issue of delivery charges, and I know he will bring that energy and drive into government.”

Mr Lochhead said: “Two years ago, I stepped back from Government. That was the right decision for my family at the time.

“Now, I am honoured and privileged to be asked to rejoin the Scottish Government ministerial team.

“The further education, higher education and science role is an exciting opportunity not just to help shape one of the underpinning economic strengths of Scotland but also deliver on our ambitions for a fairer country. We owe that to our young people and our adult learners.

“I look forward to getting to grips with this challenging and important agenda.”

Responding to news of the intended appointment, Shona Struthers, chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said: “Mr Lochhead is a vastly experienced minister who had previously served in the Cabinet for many years and that knowledge will be invaluable in his new role.

“We look forward to working closely with the new minister and the Scottish Government to ensure that colleges continue to deliver for learners, employers, the economy, and communities.”

Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray added: “After the sector has been without a minister all summer due to Nicola Sturgeon’s botched re-shuffle, Richard Lochhead has a big job on his hands.

“He inherits a college sector where the attainment gap is as stubborn as ever, a lack of faith in the university student funding cap and he has to implement a reform in student support which ditched the review’s main recommendation.

“Students don’t need a new minister, they need a new government.”