IT was no coincidence that Alex Salmond's most eye-catching announcement at the recent SNP conference was the creation of two new posts in his Cabinet, both occupied by women.

The promotion of Shona Robison and Angela Constance from junior ministers to the top team was an unabashed appeal to the undecided female voters who may hold the key to the independence referendum.

Women, the polls say, are consistently and markedly less supportive of independence than men, so the First Minister is wooing female voters.

Loading article content

"We practice what we preach," he said, adding he wanted Scottish companies to have 40% female representation in the boardroom.

"The Cabinet is our board as a country, and women will make up 40% of the Cabinet."

But as we report today, an ­analysis by the Scottish Parliament's Information Centre shows that having a seat at the Cabinet table is one thing, but having the money and responsibility to got with it is quite another.

Until September 2012, the department with the largest budget and some of the trickiest issues, health, was run by Nicola Sturgeon.

But a breakdown of this year's budget shows the female 40% of the Cabinet oversees just 12% of discretionary spending. The three smallest spending portfolios have all been allocated to women, while men run the three largest.

Labour said today's figures are proof the First Minister's promotions were merely window-dressing.

We do not doubt Salmond believes a greater role for women in public life and business is a good thing in itself and should be encouraged. But it has to be meaningful.

If he is to avoid the perception of cynicism, the First Minister must redistribute money and influence more evenly among his top team.