NICOLA Sturgeon has appointed a new public health minister after sacking Joe FitzPatrick, who previously held the role, last week.

The First Minister moved Mairi Gougeon to the position as part of a mini reshuffle of her junior ministerial team. 

She said the changes came "at a crucial time for Scotland". 

Mr FitzPatrick lost his job in the wake of damning figures showing 1,264 drug-related deaths in Scotland last year. 

Scotland’s drug-death rate is the worst in Europe and around three and a half times that of the UK as a whole.

Last week, Ms Sturgeon appointed Angela Constance as the new dedicated minister for drugs policy.

As the new minister for public health and sport, Ms Gougeon will play a key role in tackling the pandemic, with responsibility for testing across Scotland. 

She was previously rural affairs ministers, a position that will now be filled by Ben Macpherson, who was public finance minister.

Ivan McKee, minister for trade, investment and innovation, will take on additional responsibilities to support Finance Secretary Kate Forbes as the Scottish Government prepares to publish its Budget early in the new year.

Jenny Gilruth, minister for Europe and international development, will take on responsibility for migration.

Ms Sturgeon said: “At a crucial time for Scotland, these new appointments ensure that we have a ministerial team fully focused on tackling the many important challenges facing us.

“Mairi Gougeon has proven herself to be a highly effective rural affairs minister working with stakeholders, balancing competing interests and taking on difficult policy challenges.

"She will now be part of the team protecting and improving Scotland’s public health, and will play a key role in the pandemic, taking the lead on testing.

“Mairi will work alongside the new minister for drugs policy Angela Constance, who is tasked specifically with tackling what is another major public health emergency in Scotland.

“Ben Macpherson takes on the environment post at a critical time in our fight against climate change and as we take new steps to protect Scotland’s wonderful and diverse natural environment.  

"Having previously worked on climate justice and climate finance, Ben will continue our work to protect wildlife, enhance biodiversity and support Scotland’s rural economy.

“With responsibility for migration, Jenny Gilruth will be working to tackle the demographic challenge threatening to undermine our economy and our society, and Ivan McKee will assist Kate Forbes in supporting firms through the pandemic, ensuring Scottish Government procurement backs Scottish business and in preparing our Budget early in the new year.”