New SNP deputy leader Keith Brown to step down as Economy Minister as top team shift focus to indy campaigning

Ben Wray

First Minister said more changes to the Cabinet will be announced today and tomorrow

SNP LEADER Nicola Sturgeon has today [26 June] announced that new deputy leader Keith Brown will step down from his role as Economy Minister, as part of a shift in focus from the top team in the party towards independence campaigning, and the beginning of a Cabinet reshuffle.

Sturgeon said Brown, who won the deputy leadership at the party conference on 8 June, would become the standing campaign director for the party, with responsibility for policy development, preparation for future elections and building the case for Scotland to become an independent country.

She said on Twitter that more changes to the Cabinet would be announced today and tomorrow.

Brown had previously stated after winning the deputy leadership that he could combine both the role of Economy Minister and deputy leader roles, saying: “Just as Nicola [Sturgeon] manages as party leader and First Minister, I think I can manage as depute leader and Economy Secretary.”

Brown’s new responsibilities will include preparing the party for a possible snap UK General Election, developing and helping to communicate and win support for the case for independence (starting with a series of National Assemblies to discuss the Growth Commission), engaging with members, branches and external stakeholders across the country, and building the policy and campaign platform for the 2021 Holyrood elections.

Sturgeon indicated that the new role was part of a wider shift in focus to put the party on an independence campaigning footing.

She said: “The time is right to ensure that the energies of the SNP leader and depute leader team are focused not just on delivering a strong SNP Government, but also a party operation that is from top to bottom, fit and ready for the opportunities that lie ahead.

“Keith’s decision to be a dedicated depute leader will enable him to steer the party’s policy development, engage and motivate our expanded membership, get us ready for future elections, and develop the case for independence.

“To ensure we can deliver the best future for Scotland we must be ready for a snap UK election at any time, and we must also begin the hard work of building a policy platform on which to seek the support of the people of Scotland in the next Holyrood election.

“We must also make sure that the voice, expertise, energies and ideas of our expanded membership are harnessed.

“All of that would be a big enough job, but with more and more people open to the case for independence it is also essential that we focus time, energy and resources on building the arguments for independence and engaging people across the country in discussion about why it is the best future for Scotland. As depute leader of the SNP, and one of our most experienced politicians, there is no better person to lead that work than Keith Brown.”

READ MORE: New SNP depute leader Keith Brown promises a national debate on the Growth Commission at #SNP18

In addition, the First Minister confirmed that Finance Minister Derek Mackay will stand down as SNP business convener following the SNP conference in October.

Brown, who is leaving the Economy brief after two years in the post, said he had agreed with Sturgeon to make the change

He added: “In the coming days we will be appointing a team of MPs and MSPs to support this work and put the party on a campaign footing.

“While my constituency will always come first, serving as a Government Minister has been a huge honour, and I am particularly proud to have helped deliver the iconic Queensferry Crossing, the hugely successful Borders Railway and to have served as veterans minister, representing our veterans community inside government.

“This is a hugely exciting time for the SNP and I am relishing the opportunity to get the SNP ready for the campaigns and opportunities that lie ahead.”

Picture courtesy of Scottish Government