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After becoming the first woman anywhere in the UK to deliver a Budget, Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch MSP Kate Forbes has described her expanded brief as Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy a ‘humbling and daunting privilege’.
Speaking to the Lochaber Times following the First Minister’s Cabinet reshuffle last week Ms Forbes said: ‘Every party and politician identified economic recovery as one of the key priorities for the new parliamentary term.
‘Leadership of that enormous task now falls to me, ably supported by three ministers. I’m in no doubt that economic recovery must be a national endeavour. In the same way that our response to the pandemic was very much a joint effort, so also our economic recovery must draw on all our collective strengths.’
Ms Forbes retains finance as one of her responsibilities, which also include business, trade and infrastructure investment.
Her first task will be ensuring the country’s businesses can reopen and trade as soon as possible, whilst suppressing the virus.
‘We’ve seen some twists and turns in recent weeks, as a new variant of Covid-19 has started to spread, particularly in Glasgow. Meanwhile the vaccination programme continues at pace, with over three million people in Scotland now vaccinated.
‘I am a big believer in doing less better. In other words, identifying our strengths as a nation, and as a region, and backing those industries that are most likely to create jobs and revitalise our economy.
‘We can try everything and dip our toe in every puddle, or we can get behind the sectors and the industries that are most critical to our region and our nation’s success. In the Highlands, technology, tourism, renewables and food and drink are just some of the sectors that are critical to creating jobs.’
Ms Forbes will also be working closely with business and is determined that industries are not closed or impacted for a second longer than necessary.
‘Any government which must shut down the economy like we’ve done is going to have a rocky relationship with certain sectors,’ she conceded.
‘However, before the vaccines, lockdown was the only means we had of suppressing the virus. As we emerge, I want to work closely with businesses and communities to rebuild our economy.’
Meanwhile her original role of managing the country’s finances continues.
‘The challenges will continue during recovery,’ she added.
‘We want to invest substantially in construction, housebuilding and infrastructure. I know how important that is in the Highlands – the new Belford hospital, more affordable homes and the STEM centre are all required with government funding.’
In conclusion, the government minister pledged to continue to prioritise her constituents despite her expanding portfolio and is currently working her way through an expanding inbox.
‘I never lose sight of the constituency, ultimately, whatever government jobs I do or don’t have, my boss is the people of this constituency,’ she confirmed.