SCOTLAND’S new Health Secretary Neil Gray has said he will be taking plans for NHS reform to the Cabinet in the near future in his first interview in the job.

Gray spoke to the BBC’s Sunday Show after replacing Michael Matheson, who resigned from the post last week ahead of the release of a report into an £11,000 data roaming bill he racked up on holiday on his parliamentary iPad.

Gray said in the interview he wanted to “drive down” waiting times adding it was “unacceptable” so many patients felt they had no choice but to go private.

He said after consulting with trade unions, officials and health service staff, he would bring forward plans for reform in the near future.

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Gray said: “We need to see reform. We need to see improvements - and that includes improvements in productivity - and that is what I am going to be looking at in the coming weeks.

"I want to continue to drive down waiting times, both for out-patient appointments and for in-patients, and for us to see a continued improvement in accident and emergency waiting times."

However, he did stress the NHS was dealing with pressures linked to Brexit and inflation while still recovering from the Covid pandemic, and highlighted Scotland's NHS staff are the best paid in the UK. 

He added: "I'm looking to make sure our staff continue to feel valued. They are the best paid staff anywhere in the UK, and that is down to some incredible work from the likes of Michael Matheson negotiating good faith with our trade union represenatives, making sure we haven't lost a single day of strike action compared to anywhere else in the UK."

Gray was appointed to his role in a wider reshuffle of the Scottish Government, where Mairi McAllan (below) took on Gray’s previous portfolio of the Wellbeing Economy. Her title is now Cabinet Secretary for Wellbeing Economy, Net Zero and Energy.

The National: Mairi McAllan

Transport has become a stand-alone Cabinet Secretary brief under Fiona Hyslop, who has held the brief as a junior ministerial role since June 2023.

Christina McKelvie has replaced Elena Whitham, who stood down as drugs and alcohol minister earlier this week, and Kaukab Stewart has taken over as minister for Culture, Europe and International development, becoming the first woman of colour to hold a ministerial position in the Scottish Government. 

Jim Fairlie has taken on the role of Minister for Agriculture and Connectivity, supporting both McAllan and Rural Affairs Secretary Mairi Gougeon.

Gillian Martin has been brought in as a Minister for Energy, Just Transition and Fair Work.

READ MORE: Labour U-turn on green energy pledge ‘major setback for Scotland’

Elsewhere on the programme Gray insisted the SNP was still a united party despite media reports it was becoming factionalised.

He also defended the Government after he was grilled on the fact all members of the Cabinet supported Humza Yousaf in the SNP leadership race last year,

He said: “We’ve got a strong group in Government, we’ve got a very strong group at Holyrood and at Westminster that is taking it not just to the Tory UK Government, which is an absolute shambles, but also shining a light on what a Labour government would look like.

“I think we’re in a good place.”

After it was highlighted all the Cabinet positions were held by Yousaf supporters, Gray pointed out Fairlie had been brought into an “incredibly important” role after baking Kate Forbes to be leader.