Roseanna Cunningham
Cunningham in 2018
Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform
In office
18 May 2016 – 20 May 2021
First MinisterNicola Sturgeon
Preceded byAileen McLeod
Succeeded byOffice abolished
In office
12 February 2009 – 24 May 2011
First MinisterAlex Salmond
Preceded byMichael Russell
Succeeded byStewart Stevenson
Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training
In office
21 November 2014 – 18 May 2016
First MinisterNicola Sturgeon
Preceded byAngela Constance
Succeeded byOffice abolished
Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs
In office
25 May 2011 – 21 November 2014
First MinisterAlex Salmond
Preceded byFergus Ewing
Succeeded byPaul Wheelhouse
Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party
In office
26 September 2000 – 3 September 2004
LeaderJohn Swinney
Preceded byJohn Swinney
Succeeded byNicola Sturgeon
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire
Perth (1999–2011)
In office
6 May 1999 – 25 March 2021
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byJim Fairlie
Member of Parliament
for Perth
Perth and Kinross (1995–1997)
In office
25 May 1995 – 14 May 2001
Preceded byNicholas Fairbairn
Succeeded byAnnabelle Ewing
Personal details
Born (1951-07-27) 27 July 1951 (age 70)
Glasgow, Scotland
Political partyScottish National Party
Alma materUniversity of Western Australia
University of Edinburgh
University of Aberdeen
ProfessionSolicitor, Advocate
WebsiteOfficial website

Roseanna Cunningham (born 27 July 1951) is a retired Scottish National Party (SNP) politician who served as Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform from 2016 to 2021. She was previously Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training from 2014 until 2016.

She served as the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Perth from 1999 to 2011, and then for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire from 2011 to 2021. She was formerly Member of Parliament (MP) for Perth and Kinross from 1995 to 1997 then for Perth 1997 to 2001.

Early life, education and legal practice

Cunningham was born on 27 July 1951 in Glasgow to Catherine and Hugh Cunningham,[1] and spent her early years living in East Lothian and Edinburgh. In 1960, she emigrated with her family to Perth in Australia, and completed her schooling at John Curtin High School in Fremantle. As a teenager she became interested in politics, and in 1969 joined the SNP as an overseas member. In 1975 Cunningham graduated from the University of Western Australia with a BA Hons in politics.[1] She returned to Scotland in 1976.

She worked as a research assistant at SNP headquarters from 1977 to 1979,[1] and was a member of the left-wing 79 Group inside the SNP during the early 1980s, but avoided expulsion as she was not a member of its steering committee (future SNP leader Alex Salmond by contrast who served on the 79 Group committee was expelled, while Margo MacDonald resigned from the party in protest before she could be expelled).

Cunningham returned to university in 1980, graduating from the University of Edinburgh in 1982 with a Bachelor of Laws degree, followed in 1983 by a Diploma in Legal Practice from the University of Aberdeen.[1] She worked as a solicitor for Dumbarton District Council and Glasgow District Council. After a brief period in private practice, she was admitted to the Faculty of Advocates in 1990.[1]

Political career

In the 1992 general election Cunningham stood in the Perth and Kinross constituency, losing by around 2,000 votes.[2]

In 1995, she gained the seat in the Perth and Kinross by-election succeeding the recently deceased Conservative MP, Sir Nicholas Fairbairn.[3] She had initially been left off the SNP's candidate shortlist over her brief relationship in the 1970s with Donald Bain, then husband of SNP MP Margaret Ewing, on the grounds that the issue could prove an embarrassment to the party. Cunningham said the affair had begun after the couple had separated.[4] She was put back in contention following an intervention by the then party leader Alex Salmond, and after Ewing made clear she had no objection to Cunningham's candidature. In the 1997 election, she stood for the Perth constituency and was elected.[5]

In 1999 she became the MSP for Perth and continues to represent the area in the Scottish Parliament to this day. In 2000, she was elected the SNP Senior Vice-Convener (depute leader). Also in that year, she helped establish the Scottish Left Review publication. She stood down as an MP in 2001, to concentrate on the Scottish Parliament.

John Swinney announced his resignation as leader of the SNP on 22 June 2004, and on the same day Cunningham announced that she would be a candidate in the subsequent election for the party leadership. In the early stages of the campaign she appeared to be the clear front-runner, but former leader Alex Salmond entered the race just before nominations closed and Cunningham finished a distant second.[6]

In December 2006, she led an unsuccessful attempt to prevent same-sex couples gaining the right to adopt children,[7] despite having previously been named ScotsGay Parliamentarian of the Year in 1998.[8] When legislation to introduce same-sex marriage in Scotland was passed by the Scottish Parliament in February 2014, she voted against the bill.[9]

In the first reshuffle of the SNP Government in February 2009, Cunningham was appointed as Minister for the Environment.[10] In December 2010, she also took on portfolio responsibility for climate change, becoming Minister for the Environment and Climate Change. After the 2011 election, which saw a SNP landslide, she was appointed Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs with special responsibility for tackling sectarianism.

In Nicola Sturgeon's first reshuffle in November 2014, she was promoted to Cabinet as Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training.

She announced on 21 August 2020 that she would step down as an MSP in the 2021 Scottish election.[11]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Cunningham, Roseanna, (born 27 July 1951), Member (SNP) Perthshire South and Kinross-shire, Scottish Parliament, since 2011 (Perth, 1999–2011); Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, since 2016", Who's Who, Oxford University Press, 1 December 2007, doi:10.1093/ww/9780199540884.013.u12569, retrieved 22 April 2019
  2. ^ Johnson, Maureen (3 April 1995). "Nationalist movement gains strength on moors and glens. An Independent Scotland?". The Glasgow Herald. p. 2. Retrieved 18 November 2016.
  3. ^ Hassan, Gerry; Lynch, Peter. The Almanac of Scottish Politics. Politico's. p. 238. ISBN 978-1-902301-53-2.
  4. ^ Arlidge, John (1 March 1995). "SNP candidate's past haunts her". The Independent. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ Alexander, Michael (20 February 2021). "Roseanna Cunningham's historic 1995 Perth & Kinross SNP by-election victory recalled by key political players". The Courier. DC Thomson Media. Retrieved 21 April 2021.
  6. ^ "Salmond named as new SNP leader". BBC. 3 September 2004. Retrieved 20 April 2021.
  7. ^ "MSPs vote for same-sex adoption". BBC News. 7 December 2006.
  8. ^ "ScotsGay Magazine - 25".
  9. ^ "Scotland's same-sex marriage bill: How MSPs voted". 4 February 2014.
  10. ^ Cunningham relishing new challenge, Scottish Government, 12 February 2009
  11. ^ "SNP's Roseanna Cunningham to stand down as MSP". BBC News. 22 August 2020. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
Parliament of the United Kingdom Preceded byNicholas Fairbairn Member of Parliament for Perth and Kinross 1995–1997 Constituency abolished New constituency Member of Parliament for Perth 1997–2001 Succeeded byAnnabelle Ewing Scottish Parliament Preceded byConstituency established Member of the Scottish Parliament for Perth 1999–2011 Succeeded byConstituency abolished Preceded byConstituency established Member of the Scottish Parliament for Perthshire South and Kinross-shire 2011–2021 Succeeded byJim Fairlie Political offices Preceded byMichael Russell Minister for Environment and Climate Change 2009–2011 Succeeded byStewart Stevenson Preceded byFergus Ewingas Minister for Community Safety Minister for Community Safety and Legal Affairs 2011–2014 Succeeded byPaul Wheelhouse Preceded byAngela Constanceas Cabinet Secretary for Training, Youth and Women's Employment Cabinet Secretary for Fair Work, Skills and Training 2014–2016 Office abolished Preceded byAileen McLeod Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform 2016–present Office abolished Party political offices Preceded byJohn Swinney Depute Leader of the Scottish National Party 2000–2004 Succeeded byNicola Sturgeon