Jeane Freeman has announced she will not stand in next May’s Holyrood election.
Ms Freeman made the announcement to her constituency association on Monday evening.
She said she would be in her seventies by the end of the next term and had “more she wanted to do”.
She joins a list of cabinet ministers who have indicated they will not continue to serve as members of the Scottish Parliament.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham, former minister Alex Neil, and Michael Russell, cabinet secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs have all announced their retirement from Holyrood next year.
Ms Freeman said: “After very careful thought I have decided not to stand for reselection as the SNP candidate for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley in the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.
“It has been a real privilege and pleasure to represent the Ayrshire I grew up in and which, in so many ways, made me who I am today.
“I have also been privileged to hold two ministerial offices in the Scottish government in that time, initially charged with setting up Scotland’s first social security service and now as Cabinet Secretary for Health.”
She added: “I will be 67 later this year and 72 by the end of the next Parliamentary term, and while I have a great deal of energy left and more I want to do, I think it is the right time for me to stand aside and let another take forward the work as an MSP for this constituency.”
Ms Freeman was born in Ayr, the daughter of a panel beater and a nurse. She was educated at Ayr Academy, then Glasgow College of Technology from where she graduated with an MA with Honours in Politics and Sociology.
Over the course of her career she worked as a researcher at Westminster, a book-keeper for a travel company and as a researcher and script writer for the BBC.
She was a senior civil servant and also established the social enterprise, Apex Scotland, to work with employers and ex-offenders.
In 2005 she set up her own public affairs company, working with public and private sector companies and social enterprises. Prior to her election as an MSP in 2016 she chaired the board of the Golden Jubilee Foundation and was a member of the Parole Board for Scotland and the Judicial Appointments Board.
Ms Freeman told her constituency association that now was the right time to step aside.
She said: “Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley is a beautiful part of our country and it is full of talented, enterprising and hard-working people. It will be an honour for whoever wins the constituency seat, as it has been for me.
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“I have been hugely supported by SNP members in Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley and I am grateful to them all.
“I owe a particular debt to my hardworking and excellent constituency staff, Tracy, Paul and Jayde, without whom I literally couldn’t have done the job.
“I remain even firmer in my conviction that the right future for the people of this constituency and of Scotland is one where we have all the democratic and decision-making powers of a normal country.
“Securing independence by securing the right of people in Scotland to choose their own future will allow us to build on the progressive work of the SNP government since 2007 and fulfil the potential of this place and this country to build the prosperous, inclusive and progressive future we want for all of us and for future generations.
“In the months ahead I will continue my focus on the work we need to do as a country to meet the challenges facing us all in dealing with Covid-19, supporting our NHS and social care workers, and in remobilising our NHS and social care services to the greatest extent possible.”
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