HUMZA Yousaf is being urged to beef up the role of transport in his government with the appointment of a new Cabinet Secretary to take responsibility for tackling the challenging brief including the ferries' crisis.

SNP insiders have spoken to The Herald as the First Minister prepares to update his team following the departure this week of Kevin Stewart.

The transport minister resigned on Tuesday citing mental health struggles.

The Aberdeen Central MSP said he made the decision with a "heavy heart" but that he could no longer put in the hours required to serve both his constituents and hold ministerial office, "whilst also trying to maintain good mental health."

READ MORE: Ferry debacle has made Scots transport minister 'the job few want'

He had only been in post for two months, but had served in government since 2016, with stints as the minister for local government, housing and planning and as minister for mental wellbeing and social care.

Mr Stewart succeeded Jenny Gilruth, now education secretary, as transport minister in January last year, who in turn replaced Graeme Dey.

Mr Dey stepped down as transport minister in January last year citing "health-related reasons". He was in the post for just eight months.

The Angus South MSP was appointed to the post after the 2021 elections.

He said he had found himself unable to give the role "everything it rightly requires and deserves".

Mr Dey is now minister for higher and further education and minister for veterans in Mr Yousaf's government.

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf gives no commitment to ferry crisis compensation

The First Minister is yet to announce Mr Stewart's successor but some in the governing party believe it would make sense for the role to be a Cabinet appointment.

Currently, the transport minister is not a Cabinet position with the post holder working under Màiri McAllan, whose title is Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition. The Scottish Government today insisted Ms McAllan's brief also included responsibility for transport.

Michael Matheson, the Health Secretary, was Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Energy and Transport from May 2021 to March 2023. Mr Matheson succeeded Mr Yousaf to take on the transport brief with the role then upgraded to Cabinet level.

"Transport is clearly a challenge," said one figure. "There is some talk that it should be a Cabinet role. It's absolutely critical to people and to fix it someone would need to have control over the budget, over the different agencies involved."

The source said not only was there the issue of tackling the ongoing problems surrounding the ferries but also plans to dual the A9 and A96 which have been delayed.

One SNP MSP said if the transport brief was to be a position in Cabinet the First Minister would have a wider pool of people to recruit from as some on the backbenchers had turned down junior ministerial jobs in Mr Yousaf's government.

READ MORE: Kevin Stewart quits as transport minister

"You could take an existing Cab Sec [Cabinet Secretary] and give him or her transport but it would be hard to do that at the moment as it would mean demoting someone to a junior ministerial role," they said.

"If you wanted to move an existing minister you would probably move Paul McLennan, Gillian Martin or Maree Todd.

"If you wanted to move a previous minister in, then there would be options with Keith Brown, Ivan McKee or Ben Macpherson. If it was made a Cabinet role any of those three may accept it."

Another SNP insider said: "If it was me I would create a Cabinet Secretary position specifically for transport. Get some experience in to try and sort it out."

Earlier this week ASLEF Scottish organiser Kevin Lindsay called for the transport portfolio to be beefed up to Cabinet level.

He told The Herald: "Transport overall is a hugely important policy area and it simply beggars belief that the Scottish Government has no cabinet minister with direct responsibility for transport.

"The First Minister has the opportunity to rectify his mistake and ensure when replacing Kevin Stewart that he adjusts his cabinet and ensures that there is a minister with obvious responsibility for transport ... We urge him to do so when he replaces Kevin Stewart."

In the wake of Mr Stewart's resignation on Tuesday people living on Scotland's islands called for the First Minister to intervene quickly on the ferry crisis.

On Sunday an estimated 500 residents, 200 cars, 40 vans and 20 lorries converged on Lochboisdale - the port which links South Uist to the mainland - in a protest over CalMac's decision to cancel almost every ferry service in June to the island due to continuing problems with its ageing fleet.

The issues were further exacerbated over the weekend when CalMac blocked motorhomes from going to and from North Uist from Saturday morning and into Sunday because of a problem with MV Hebrides' mezzanine deck.

South Uist business leaders called on the First Minister to step in to ensure that the issues are resolved.

Some 18 of of CalMac's 35 working ferries deployed across Scotland are now over 25 years old - considered the working life of the vessels.

Two new lifeline ferries Glen Sannox and Hull 802 were due online in the first half of 2018 when Ferguson Marine was under the control of tycoon Jim McColl, with one initially to serve Arran and the other to serve the Skye triangle routes to North Uist and Harris.

However, the two vessels are over five years late. The last estimates suggested the costs of delivery are to quadruple from an original £97m contract price.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The First Minister is saddened by the resignation of Kevin Stewart due to his mental health. It would, however, not be appropriate to speculate on the causes of any individuals’ mental health issues.”"It is factually incorrect to say that no Cabinet Secretary has responsibility for transport. The role of Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition includes transport.”