Gender-balanced Cabinet offers hope

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Is new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s choice of Cabinet the most dramatic expression ever of positive discrimination in Scottish (indeed, British) public life?

On balance, we should take at her word her view that each member has their place on merit (your report, 22 November); it will also set a good example to public bodies about the need for gender equality in decision-making.

It is bound to have all political parties thinking about the best way to involve more and more women in politics.

This is particularly true for Labour, still mired in controversy, not least among its own members and affiliates, about all-women shortlists for what once appeared safe parliamentary seats.

In Glenrothes and Central Fife, for example, a very good candidate, Melanie Ward, still faces occasional sniping simply because she was selected using that method.

For some, all-women shortlists go against every principle of democracy and are seen as demeaning to women. To others, they seem the only practical way to ensure equal representation of both sexes in the House of Commons.

Ms Sturgeon has certainly broken new ground. Her choice of colleagues means it is easier for the SNP to take the moral high ground on equal opportunities.

We can never be certain whether the new Cabinet is a meritocracy or a gesture towards gender balance. In my view it would certainly be wrong, however, to dismiss Labour’s approach to shortlists. Years of pious rhetoric about equal representation have produced only limited gains for women; the lists give some hope that an ambition can be achieved.

Bob Taylor

Shiel Court

Glenrothes

The Scottish Government has full responsibility for three of the main powers of government: national health, education and law and order. All is not well in these three departments.

The first act of our new First Minister is to sack the three ministers responsible for the failures of these departments. What does this say about the judgment of Alex Salmond?

Alastair Paisley

Baberton Crescent

Edinburgh