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Sturgeon departs as Scottish health secretary to spearhead push for independence

Nicola Sturgeon has been replaced as Scottish health secretary after being handed a key role in overseeing Scotland's impending push for independence from the UK.

She has been appointed cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities spending, taking over from Alex Neil, who will in turn replace her as health secretary.

Ms Sturgeon, who is also deputy first minister, has served in the role since May 2007 and has been a driving force behind moves to explore a ‘more Scottish" GP contract, currently being worked out in consultation between the Government, health boards and the Scottish GPC.

Scottish first minister Alex Salmond hailed her ‘substantial achievements' in the post and said the changes had been made to assist Scotland in preparation for the referendum on independence in 2014.

Mr Salmond said: ‘As health secretary, Nicola Sturgeon has demonstrated what can be achieved when Scotland has responsibility for its own affairs. She has delivered record low waiting times and protected the NHS from the creeping privatisation of the UK Government. As cabinet secretary for infrastructure, investment and cities, she will have a lead role in our programme for economic recovery. With responsibility for Government strategy and the constitution, she will also lead in making the positive case for Scotland's future.

‘Alex Neil has delivered the biggest infrastructure investment programme in Scotland's history against a backdrop of budget cuts from Westminster. In taking forward Nicola Sturgeon's substantial achievements as health secretary, he will ensure that Scotland's health service continues to have the strongest possible leadership. In 2014, the people of Scotland will have the chance to seize the biggest opportunity in 300 years and ensure that Scotland's future is in Scotland's hands.'

The move comes just a day after Scotland announced the bill that will see a referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 and after the UK Government also organised a major cabinet reshuffle, replacing UK health secretary Andrew Lansley with Jeremy Hunt.

For the full Scottish reshuffle, see http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/09/scottish-cabinet05092012

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