NICOLA Sturgeon’s top aide is to leave her post for a new role in the Scottish Government.
Liz Lloyd, who had been the First Minister’s chief of staff since January 2015, is to become her strategic adviser instead.
The sideways move follows Ms Lloyd taking an extended leave of absence since May’s Holyrood election, which led to speculation at Holyrood about her future.
However she is now expected to return to work next week as Ms Sturgeon puts forward her legislative programme for the coming year.
Colin McAllister, who had been the lead policy adviser and senior adviser to deputy First Minister John Swinney, will be Ms Sturgeon’s new chief of staff.
He had already been filling the role in an acting capacity during Ms Lloyd’s absence.
Ms Lloyd’s new role is expected to mirror that of Ms Sturgeon’s trusted former adviser, Noel Dolan, who was never far from her side when she was deputy First Minister.
He provided advice on policy and FMQs, and Ms Lloyd is expected to do the same.
As chief of staff, Ms Lloyd was paid between £90,565 and £108,062 a year, making her the highest paid of all the First Minister’s 14 special advisers, or SpAds, last year.
In March, Ms Sturgeon was forced to defend Ms Lloyd after she was accused of “interfering” in the Scottish Government’s botched sexual misconduct probe into Alex Salmond.
Tory MP David Davis used parliamentary privilege to make the charge in the Commons.
He quoted a text between senior officials from February 2018, two months before Ms Sturgeon claimed to have known about the probe, referring to “Liz interference v bad”.
He said it suggested the First Minister’s chief of staff had knowledge of the Salmond case well before the First Minister told MSPs she became aware of it.
Ms Sturgeon “strongly refuted” the allegations, while a woman who complained about Mr Salmond said the claims aired by Mr Davis were “fundamentally untrue”.
The Scottish Tories have also accused Ms Lloyd of multiple breaches of the code of conduct for special advisers, including tweeting on matters of “political controversy”.
The Government said SpAds were “able to represent Ministers’ views with a degree of political commitment that would not be possible for other civil servants” under the code.
Ms Lloyd’s move comes as the special adviser team changes to reflect the Scottish Greens joining the SNP in government.
Under a prospective deal outlined today, the two Green ministers in the government would have two special advisers to assist them in their work.
Unlike traditional civil servants, special advisers are not politically neutral, and their tenure is often tied to that of the minister they serve.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Liz Lloyd has been reappointed as a special adviser and will fulfil a new role, with responsibility to work across government and with stakeholders to provide strategic advice on the delivery of the government’s policy programme.
“She will report directly to the First Minister.
“Colin McAllister has been asked to fulfil the role of chief of staff on a permanent basis.”