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Last Updated: Thursday, 17 May 2007, 12:45 GMT 13:45 UK
MSPs approve new Scottish cabinet
Alex Salmond (pic by Ciaran Donnelly)
Alex Salmond was sworn in at the Court of Session
The new SNP Scottish cabinet and junior ministers have been approved by MSPs but without the help of Holyrood's opposition parties.

The new set-up sees First Minister Alex Salmond joined in cabinet by five secretaries, each presiding over their own departments and ministers.

Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MSPs abstained when it came to voting in the regime in parliament.

Earlier Mr Salmond was sworn in as first minister during a legal ceremony.

He took the oath of office at a brief event at the Court of Session in Edinburgh, administered by Lord President Lord Hamilton and watched by 15 senior judges.

It's a new way of business for all of us in the parliament
Alex Salmond
First Minister

The new Scottish government comprises 16 ministerial posts in all, including Mr Salmond, cabinet secretaries and junior ministers, compared with 19 ministers in Jack McConnell's previous administration.

Mr Salmond said his team was designed to deliver a smaller, more effective government.

"We have slimmed down government from nine departments to six, delivering a welcome reduction in the cost of the ministerial team," he said.

Mr Salmond, who is head of Scotland's first minority government, had stressed the need for compromise and concession.

He said of his new team: "I've asked them to engage with all sides in this chamber so we can where possible agree a joint approach in the many areas where all that divides us might be in the detail, not the substance.

"It's a new way of business for all of us in the parliament."

Ministerial cars

Scottish Labour leader Jack McConnell criticised several of the new posts and highlighted "contradictions" between the shape of the cabinet and comments made by SNP politicians in recent years.

The former first minister claimed Mr Salmond's changes would jeopardise the economy's place as the top priority of government.

"Today it is de-prioritised by the new first minister and is put inside a shambles of a department that I think he will regret," he said.

"He has learnt nothing in opposition rather than what he says about learning in opposition."

Scots Tory deputy leader Murdo Fraser praised the idea of a smaller government, but he asked: "Will we be seeing a reduction in the ever increasing fleet of ministerial cars?

'Abandoned plans'

"Will we be seeing a reduction in overall administration costs? Will we be seeing a cut in the number of spin doctors working at the taxpayers expense?

"The Scottish Conservatives will be asking these questions in the coming weeks."

Former Lib Dem transport minister Tavish Scott questioned the size of the "enormous" new finance and sustainable growth remit that John Swinney would preside over and also criticised the separation of the enterprise and life-long learning briefs.

He added: "I trust the first minister will explain why in opposition the SNP demanded so many more ministers, and why now that he has the responsibility of introducing ministers to this parliament they abandoned the plans they said were so important when they were in opposition."

During the earlier Court of Session ceremony, Mr Salmond signed formal documents sealing his appointment as the first minister, flanked by Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini and Solicitor General John Beckett for the ceremony.

Mr Salmond also became the official keeper of the Seal of Scotland, a silver clamp used to authenticate official documents.

He later went on to chair the SNP's first cabinet meeting in Bute House, the first minister's official residence.


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Alex Salmond is sworn in as Scotland's first minister



SEE ALSO
Salmond announces his new cabinet
16 May 07 |  Scotland

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