SPECULATION is mounting that Nick Clegg is preparing to promote Scottish MP Jo Swinson to the UK Cabinet in a bid to give the Liberal Democrats a more female-friendly face in the run-up to the 2015 General Election.

It was boosted after Paddy Power stopped taking bets on who would be next to step down from Nick Clegg's top team.

This followed a "flood of cash over the last 24 hours" on Alistair Carmichael, the Scottish Secretary, being the next to exit.

"It was a close call north of the border just a few weeks ago but, if our punters are anything to go by now, Carmichael's time is most definitely up," said a spokesman for the bookies.

Crucially, Ms Swinson, the 34-year-old Business and Women's Minister, who represents East Dunbartonshire, is a Clegg loyalist and regarded as a good media performer, who will be able to get the LibDem message across on the airwaves between now and May 7.

The Deputy Prime Minister could reshuffle his frontline as early as this weekend, it is thought, but, because of the small number of Lib Dem ministers, he has limited room for manoeuvre.

Mr Clegg appears to have two options to replace either Mr Carmichael or Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, with Ms Swinson.

Vince Cable, the Business Secretary, is regarded as being safe.