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Women ministers in SNP Cabinet control less than 12% of Scotland's budget

WOMEN oversee less than 12% of the ­Scottish budget despite making up 40% of the Cabinet, analysis by the Scottish Parliament has found.

Clockwise from top left, Shona Robison, Fiona Hyslop and Angela Constance are in charge of the three smallest spending portfolios in the Scottish Cabinet, while Nicola Sturgeon's portfolio is worth £2.7bn

­Official figures show Alex Salmond has put women in charge of the three smallest spending portfolios in his government, while giving the three largest to men.

On average, male Cabinet secretaries have six times the budget of their female colleagues.

Opposition parties said the gulf in spending power and responsibility between the sexes showed the First Minister's recent promotion of two women to the Cabinet was little more than a cynical bid to woo female voters ahead of the independence referendum. Opinion polls consistently show fewer women than men back a Yes vote, with the gender gap at about 10 percentage points.

Salmond used his keynote speech at the recent SNP conference to announce ministers Shona Robison and Angela Constance would become Cabinet secretaries.

The change meant the Scottish Cabinet grew from eight to 10 people, with women occupying four seats. The SNP government wants Scottish companies to adopt the same 40% female representation in their boardrooms.

Robison is now Secretary for Commonwealth Games, Sport, Equalities and Pensioner's Rights, while Constance is Secretary for Training, Youth and Female Employment.

Although other parties have welcomed the presence of more women in the Cabinet, they have also questioned Salmond's motives. Sceptics note the new Cabinet secretaries have virtually the same responsibilities as before their promotions, and that, uniquely in the Cabinet, they do not have supporting ministers to help them in their work.

Salmond last week insisted the promotions, which carry a £16,745 pay bump to £102,775, were "based on merit and responsibilities".

Now the impartial Scottish Parliament Information Centre has quantified the gender differences, based on the discretionary spending power available to Cabinet secretaries in the 2014-15 budget, also known as their departmental expenditure limits (DEL).

It shows £25.8 billion of this year's DEL, or 87.5%, is overseen by male Cabinet secretaries, while just £3.5bn, or 11.8%, is overseen by women. Almost 78% of DEL is in the hands of those in the top three spending Cabinet positions, all of whom are men - Alex Neil at health, John Swinney at finance and Kenny MacAskill at justice.

The bottom three spending positions are all held by women - Constance, Robison and Culture and External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop - who between them oversee just 2.7% of DEL.

The only female Cabinet secretary with major spending responsibility is Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, whose Infrastructure, Investment and Cities portfolio is worth £2.7bn, or 9.1% of DEL this year. The average DEL overseen by a male Cabinet secretary is £5.2bn, six times higher than the £870 million for a woman.

Labour, who obtained the figures, accused the First Minister of ­tokenism. Equalities spokeswoman Jackie Baillie MSP said: "This proves that Alex Salmond's new-found interest in gender equality is nothing more than a cynical attempt to win over the many women who don't buy into his plans to break up the United Kingdom."

A spokesman for Salmond said: "By making the Cabinet 40% women we are sending a strong signal to the rest of Scottish society to do likewise. We are practising what we preach. It is disgraceful that Labour are seeking to play politics with such an important issue as gender equality. They are desperately trying to play catch-up on an issue with which they haven't led by example.

"The redistribution of portfolio budgets to reflect the responsibilities of the two additional Cabinet Secretaries is currently under way.

"As the First Minister said last week, these appointments underline our commitment to equality, to pensioners, and to helping the young people of Scotland into the workplace."

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