Nicola Sturgeon has challenged the First Minister to appoint even more women to senior government posts following the confirmation of two more female cabinet secretaries.

Angela Constance and Shona Robison have been officially promoted to the Scottish Government top table, boosting female representation on the Scottish Cabinet to 40%.

But Ms Sturgeon, Deputy First Minister and deputy leader of the SNP, has challenged First Minister Alex Salmond to match the Scottish female population share of 52%. The appointments were approved at Holyrood yesterday, but opposition parties complained they were politically motivated with no additional duties and a public price of more than £30,000 in salaries.

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Ms Sturgeon said: "These appointments do mean that 40% of the Cabinet are women.

"That is a significant milestone and one we should be proud of. Although I should perhaps say, First Minister, given that we make up 52% of the population perhaps it's not time to stop quite where we are right now."

Labour equalities spokeswoman Jackie Baillie said: "This is perhaps not about recognising talent — it is quite simply about the referendum. Apparently the First Minister has a problem with women. Or is it that women have a problem with Alex Salmond?

"I'm sure it comes as a surprise to him, but it would appear that women don't altogether trust the First Minister and his promises."

She added: "The First Minister has today increased the salary of two women by something like £30,000 to £40,000 a year, and that is welcome.

"But there is a marginal impact on the equal pay gap by doing that. How about increasing the wages of 256,000 working women to pay the Living Wage?"

Conservative deputy leader Jackson Carlaw said: "The appointments without supporting ministers or additional duties are being funded at taxpayers' expense. How much better these appointments would have been had they been given the chance to perform better than failing ministers in the Scottish Government."