IVAN McKEE has hit back at unnamed figures in the Scottish Government who accused the former business and trade minister of leaving the administration because he didn't get a promotion to Cabinet.

The MSP for Glasgow Provan was Kate Forbes' campaign manager at the start of the SNP leadership contest which resulted in a narrow victory for Humza Yousaf on Monday.

Ms Forbes, who was finance secretary under Nicola Sturgeon, resigned on Tuesday after she was offered the less prominent role of rural affairs secretary.

Despite stressing a need to rebuild party unity in the wake of a fractious leadership contest, Mr Yousaf named just one supporter of Ms Forbes - Siobhain Brown - as part of his 28 strong team of ministers.

READ MORE: Fresh blow to Yousaf as business minister quits government

Former social justice secretary Shona Robison, a close ally of former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, succeeds Ms Forbes as finance secretary, also taking on the role of Deputy First Minister, while Richard Lochhead was appointed minister for small business, innovation and trade.

Mr McKee announced on Wednesday he would be stepping down after five years in government describing a sense of frustration that his role in government had not allowed him to make the improvements for the business environment that he wanted to do.

Asked precisely why he was leaving, he told The Herald: "To be absolutely frank with you. It is immensely frustrating having to talk to businesses everyday and listen to their problems without have the ability to actually do anything about it."

He said he had been offered a similar brief as junior minister to his previous post but with fewer responsibilities and that the new post was "effectively a smaller job".

READ MORE: Business groups raise concerns over Ivan McKee exit from government

However, government sources disputed his account and told journalists he had left because he didn't get a promotion to Cabinet.

Mr McKee, a former successful businessman, today denied this was the case and added that during the leadership campaign he understood Mr Yousaf promised all the roles in Cabinet roles to people who supported his bid.

"I made it clear I was okay to take a non Cabinet position - as I understood Humza would have promised them all to supporters during the campaign.

"I'm not obviously not interested in the money or the status. The key thing was if he was serious about transforming the relationship with business and building a strong economy I needed to be given the tools to do the job - authority over budgets in my portfolio and no interference from SPADs [special advisors] or others launching random unconnected non strategic initiatives or policies without me being aware.

The Herald:

First Minister Humza Yousaf with his new Scottish Cabinet.   Photo PA.

"Basically I was content to get on and do the job fixing what needed fixed and was happy for him and others to take the credit. For some unknown reason that wasn't acceptable to him. 

"Also worth noting that the offered role is definitely smaller - it's even got the word small in the title.

"It excludes working with larger businesses and enterprises, it excludes the work I was leading on civil service reform (getting best value from the £700m we spend on civil servants every year) and the Scottish Government buildings and estates strategy - those have gone to DFM.

"It also excludes the work I was doing with industry on talent attraction from rest of UK. And I'm pretty sure it excludes public sector procurement - getting best value from the £14 billion we spend annually.

"And not yet clear if it includes digital connectivity and  implementation of the digital strategy I co-authored."

Highly regarded in the business community, Mr McKee, who was first elected to Holyrood in 2016, was appointed minister for business, trade, tourism and enterprise in May 2021. He was previously the minister for trade, investment and innovation.

Before entering politics, he held a number of senior roles in manufacturing and business, managing companies in the UK as well as Poland, Finland, Croatia and Bosnia.

Business groups expressed disappointment on Wednesday over his exit from government.

Meanwhile, the new First Minister chaired his first Cabinet meeting today and pledged to take a "bold approach" to the issues facing Scotland.

The meeting at Bute House in Edinburgh took place after a number of new Cabinet secretaries - education secretary Jenny Gilruth, net-zero and just transition Secretary Mairi McAllan, justice secretary Angela Constance, and wellbeing economy, fair work and energy secretary Neil Gray - were formally sworn in at the Court of Session.

With the First Minister planning to make a statement to MSPs after the Easter recess, there was a "substantive discussion" at the Cabinet meeting on the new Government's priorities.

Speaking after the Cabinet meeting, Mr Yousaf said he had made clear he wants his Cabinet to be a forum for open and honest discussion.

He pledged the Government will reach out to others, including the business community, opposition leaders and the wider public "in a spirit of genuine collaboration".

The Scottish Government has been approached for a response to Mr McKee.