MSP determined to 'make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up'

Dunfermline MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville says she is “delighted” to have been appointed Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills in Nicola Sturgeon’s new SNP government.
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP. Picture: John Devlin/JPIMediaShirley-Anne Somerville MSP. Picture: John Devlin/JPIMedia
Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP. Picture: John Devlin/JPIMedia

The newly re-elected MSP, who was returned with a doubled majority earlier this month, replaces John Swinney in the role.

She previously served as Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People.

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She said: “I’m delighted and truly honoured to have been asked by the First Minister to take up this role.

“I fully understand what an important time this is for education in Scotland.

“Young people have faced a lot of disruption to their learning due to the pandemic and our teachers have done a sterling job to provide the best learning experience possible in the most trying of circumstances.”

Swinney has been moved into a new role as the Cabinet Secretary for Covid Recovery. He has faced heavy criticism over his management of education during the pandemic, including a scrapped plan to decide pupils’ exam grades using an algorithm and this year’s grading assessments – derided by teaching unions as “exams by another name”.

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North East Fife MSP and Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “Shirley-Anne Somerville will need to urgently reform the SQA and Education Scotland and ensure that another year of pupils are not badly burned by the qualifications system.”

Somerville says she is committed to improving education outcomes among Scottish children, adding: “We are determined to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up and education will certainly play a key role in achieving that aim.”

She was unable to join the First Minister and other appointees outside Bute House in Edinburgh on Wednesday after choosing to self-isolate because a family member was required to take a Covid-19 test.

She was able to attend Holyrood on Thursday after the relative’s result was negative. The First Minister shared an image of a video call she had with Somerville from Bute House discussing her new appointment.

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The Dunfermline MSP added: “Thankfully their result came back negative although they will of course continue to self-isolate as requested by Test and Protect.

“I want to thank everyone who sent their well wishes but I want to assure people that we’re all doing just fine.”

John Brady, Local Democracy Reporting Service

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