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New Communities Minister

09/01/2007

Rhona Brankin, the Deputy Environment and Rural Development Minister, has today been appointed as the new Communities Minister to replace Malcolm Chisholm who resigned last month.

Ms Brankin's deputy environment portfolio is taken over by Sarah Boyack, constituency MSP for Edinburgh Central, who returns to the Executive where she was previously Environment, Transport and Planning between 1999 and 2001.

A motion asking Parliament to confirm the appointments is likely to be laid on Thursday.

In the letter of appointment to Rhona Brankin, First Minister Jack McConnell said:

"The immediate priority for the portfolio is the publication of our strategy for Scotland with an Ageing Population. This important strategy will build on the Executive's futures work and challenge all sectors to rethink attitudes to ageing, deploy the talents of older people and build stronger links between generations.

"You will also need to demonstrate strong leadership for the Executive on equality, tackling racism and the important range of voluntary sector issues. I am particularly keen for you to continue with our strong engagement with faith communities and the voluntary sector, and I specifically look to you to ensure that Project Scotland achieves our ambitions for young people.

"I am sure you will maintain effective leadership across all Executive departments on Closing the Opportunity Gap. We have made real progress over recent years, but much remains to be done to secure our objective of ending poverty and disadvantage in Scotland.

"Our radical planning reforms are now in place and will secure better community engagement in deciding the future developments in their areas. We now need to press ahead with the broader package of changes that the Act has made possible, including the preparation of the next National Planning Framework, up to date Development Plans and quicker planning decisions.

"Housing and homelessness remain a key policy area for this Executive. I look to you to ensure that our additional investment secures more new, improved and affordable housing, with new opportunities for first time buyers to join the housing market.

"We also need to maintain our delivery of housing improvements in those areas that have voted to secure the improvements that community ownership will bring, for example ensuring that the improvements promised to Glasgow tenants are realised. In doing this, we will not lose sight of our ambitious targets on homelessness.

"Finally, our regeneration statement of a year ago mapped out a better future for those areas still blighted by poverty, unemployment and a degraded environment. The progress we have begun to make in our priority areas needs to be maintained, in order for us to foster economic growth and development in our most deprived communities.

"I know that you will give the post your full commitment and energy, and I have every confidence in you being a highly successful Minister for Communities over the coming months."