Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon explains why she is backing John Swinney for First Minister.

I’ve been rural Scotland’s champion in government now since being appointed Cabinet Secretary in 2021. But I was also the junior Minister for 3 years before that.  I learned a lot from the then Rural Economy Secretary, Fergus Ewing, but I learned just as much from Roseanna Cunningham, who was the Environment Secretary.

It’s that balance between farming and environment that has stayed with me and which I have sought to represent as the Rural Secretary – and it was something that Humza Yousaf understood well. The First Minister was the first to acknowledge that rural interests had not previously been at the forefront of his time in government.  Yet, he made strenuous efforts in the last year to change that, to come to the Royal Highland Show, to the NFU Scotland annual conference, to visit Dingwall Mart

And in all his engagements, he did what he does best.  He listened and he took on board what people said.  I am very sad that he has decided to resign as SNP leader and First Minister. 

As Humza and I both said at NFU Scotland’s conference in February, there is no conflict between supporting Scotland’s farmers to produce food and doing so in a way that mitigates climate change and helps to protect and restore nature. 

Fundamentally, what is good for the planet is also good for productivity and profitability.

Scottish farming needs a new First Minister who understands that. But rural Scotland also needs a new First Minister who can not only represent all of rural Scotland, but unite us all – just as they have done for many years now in their own constituency.  That person is John Swinney.