SCOTTISH ministers have agreed to draw up plans for increasing the number of women in top jobs after calling for extra powers from Westminster.

The Government has confirmed it has accepted an invitation from Jo Swinson, the UK Government's Minister For Women And Equalities, to present "detailed proposals" for setting a legally binding quota for the number of women on the boards of devolved public bodies.

Details of the continuing talks to devolve the power to set a mandatory quota emerged after Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that increasing the number of women in Scotland's boardrooms would be a "gain of independence".

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She told a conference at the weekend that if Scots voted Yes in the referendum, an SNP Government "would take action, backed by legislation if necessary, to ensure that a clear target - I would argue at least 40% - of places on boards were occupied by women".

She made it clear the legislation would apply to private companies as well as public bodies. At present, the Scottish Government is only seeking powers to ensure 40% of appointment to public boards are women.

Scottish Government minister Shona Robison requested a "Section 30 Order" - a mechanism for transferring power from Westminster to Holyrood - last October to allow MSPs to set a quota.

Ms Swinson replied last month, saying she did not feel the case had been made. But she added: "Sight of your detailed, concrete proposals may also help us to consider how it may be possible to work together to achieve those objectives."

A Scottish Government ­spokeswoman said: "The UK Government has confirmed the powers lie with them. However, we intend to continue to make the case and will be putting forward more detailed proposals."

Fewer than one-third of board members on many of Scotland's top public bodies are women, despite the Scottish Government setting a voluntary 40% target five years ago.

Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said the pledge was "hot air instead of action".