A slimmed-down Scottish Cabinet meets for the first time today at Bute House, comprising Alex Salmond's inner team while excluding non-loyalists from ministerial office. Alex Salmond has cut back the number of ministers from 18 to 16, with the cabinet down from 11 to six,excluding law officers.

The top team is to be focussed on the executive's key priorities, and is linked to major reform to the civil service structure. Loyalists of Mr Salmond in the top team, to be known as Cabinet Secretaries, include Richard Lochhead, Fiona Hyslop and Kenny MacAskill. Nicola Sturgeon is Deputy First Minister with the health portfolio, and former SNP leader John Swinney has a large ministry including enterprise, transport, local government and finance. The rank below is to drop the word 'deputy' from their ministerial titles.

Those significant for their absence from the team include Roseanna Cunningham and Alex Neil, both former leadership challengers, and former front benchers Christine Grahame and Michael Matheson, while Michael Russell has been given a ministerial job despite his past differences with Mr Salmond.

The First Minister will make announcements on the two law officer posts next week, with Elish Angiolini tipped to stay as Lord Advocate.

ALEX SALMOND - First Minister

He will head the executive and have responsibility for development, implementation and presentation of policy, constitutional affairs and promoting Scotland. The new MSP for Gordon, Salmond first became SNP leader in 1990, but unexpectedly resigned in July, 2000. Was elected leader again in 2004.
Salary £129,998

Mr Salmond will be supported by two ministers:
BRUCE CRAWFORD - Minister for Parliamentary Business (£78,080).
LINDA FABIANI - Minister for Europe, External Affairs and Culture (£78,080).

NICOLA STURGEON - Cabinet Secretary for Health and Wellbeing, and Deputy First Minister

Among her responsibilities will be NHS reform, health promotion, food safety, dentistry,community care, substance misuse and social inclusion. At the third time of asking, Sturgeon finally defeated Labour's Gordon Jackson on May 3 to become the MSP for Glasgow Govan. She has been an MSP since 1999, however, having been elected on the Glasgow regional list.
Salary £92,988.

SHONA ROBISON - Minister for Public Health (£78,080).
STEWART MAXWELL - Minister for Communities and Sport (£78,080).

FIONA HYSLOP - Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning

Will have responsibility for further and higher education, science and lifelong learning, schools, nurseries, childrens hearings and social work.

Has been a regional MSP for the Lothians since 1999 and the party's education spokeswoman since 2003, which saw her take the previous executive to task on such issues as class sizes and pupil indiscipline.
Salary £92,988

MAUREEN WATT - Minister for Schools and Skills (£78,080).
ADAM INGRAM - Minister for Children and Early Years (£78,080).

KENNY MacASKILL - Cabinet Secretary for Justice

Among his responsibilities are criminal law and procedure, youth justice, prisons and sentencing policy, courts and law reform and liquor licensing. The new MSP for Edinburgh East and Musselburgh is a former firebrand left-winger and member of the SNP's fundamentalist wing. He is now in the gradualist camp, which believes devolution should be allowed to bed in before any moves towards independence.
Salary £92,988

FERGUS EWING - Minister for Community Safety (£78,080).

JOHN SWINNEY - Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth

Among his responsibilities are the economy, the budget, public service reform, building standards, transport policy and delivery and Scottish Water. The MSP for North Tayside was SNP leader from 2000 until 2004, when he resigned under pressure from within the party. Well-liked MSP, keen on consensus building.
Salary £92,988

JIM MATHER - Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism (£78,080).
STEWART STEVENSON - Minister for Transport, Infrastructure and Climate Change (£78,080).

RICHARD LOCHHEAD> - Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment

Will have responsibility for agriculture, fisheries and rural development including aquaculture and forestry, environment and natural heritage, land reform and sustainable development. The MSP for Moray since 2006, he has been in the parliament since 1999 after initially being elected on the North East list. He has been a vocal critic of the European Union drive to cut North Sea fishing quotas, arguing for Scotland to take the lead for the UK in the annual negotiations.
Salary £92,988

MICHAEL RUSSELL - Minister for Environment (£78,080).