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Sturgeon's women power v Cameron's man power

Photo: PA

She's been described as Scotland's feminist First Minister, by the New York Times no less.

Since she took over from Alex Salmond, Nicola Sturgeon has made gender equality a key priority for her government.

In her acceptance speech when she was elected First Minister Ms Sturgeon mentioned her eight-year-old niece, Harriet.

She said she hoped that by the time Harriet grew up, she would not face the barriers make it hard for women to work and pursue careers.

In office Ms Sturgeon has been as good as her word.

Nicola Sturgeon has made gender equality a key priority for her government Credit: PA

For example, she has pressed for more women on boards in the private and public sectors.

And pushed ahead with plans to increase state-funded child care.

But Ms Sturgeon has also made her mark at the heart of government.

Women now occupy the three most important jobs in Scottish politics.

That's in marked contrast to the big jobs in Downing Street, all held by men.

The big jobs in Downing Street are all held by men Credit: Dan Kitwood/PA

As it happens there are also significant educational differences too.

In Scotland the top three women were all state educated.

South of the Border they all went to public (in other words private) schools.

Here's the roll call:

  • There's Ms Sturgeon herself who went to Greenwood Academy in Ayrshire, and on to Glasgow University.
  • Her chief of staff and senior political adviser, Liz Lloyd, went to Gosforth High School in Newcastle, a state school, and Edinburgh University.
  • Leslie Evans, newly appointed as the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish government, the most senior civil servant in Scotland, went to High Storrs school in Sheffield and Liverpool University.
Leslie Evans, the most senior civil servant in Scotland, went to High Storrs school in Sheffield and Liverpool University Credit: The Scottish Government
  • David Cameron, the Prime Minister, as we all know, went to Eton College and Oxford University, Brasenose College to be precise.
  • His senior political adviser, chief of staff Ed Llewellyn, also went to Eton and Oxford, New College in his case.
  • And the UK's most senior civil servant Sir Jeremy Heywood went to Bootham school, an independent school in York and to...yes Oxford, Hertford College.
Sir Jeremy Heywood, the UK's most senior civil servant, went to an independent school and then the University of Oxford Credit: PA

The question is whether any of this matters.

Mr Cameron when asked about his up-bringing says it's not where you come from that counts, it what you do - for everyone no matter their background - when you gain power.

Ms Sturgeon has often said she wants youngsters - particularly young women - to reach the very top and has set about trying to improve school standards in Scotland to ensure the less well off have the same chances as those who went to expensive private schools.

Mr Cameron too would say that he has supported the rise of women.

Of the 191 women MPs in the UK Parliament - up from 143 in the last parliament but just 29% of the total - 68 are Tory.

Of the 191 women MPs in the UK Parliament, 68 are Tory Credit: PA

And in terms of policies the Prime Minister has also made child care an important priority.

Does an all women top team make a difference?

Those who know the way the Scottish government has worked under Ms Sturgeon say it does.

They say the say of doing politics is different - less macho, more consensual though by no means lacking in rigour and challenge.

Ms Sturgeon is no shrinking violet. Credit: PA

Ms Sturgeon is no shrinking violet.

She's the party leader, the First Minister, and she makes that very clear.

But is Scotland insiders say the women's perspective will be taken into account at all times, right at the top.

Those who've worked in Whitehall say that Mr Cameron is a far from macho politician Credit: PA

Those who've worked in Whitehall say that Mr Cameron is a far from macho politician and that he and his team themselves think about how policies effect women.

And that women ministers and MPs keep women's issue to the fore.

The outcome of policies pursued by each government will be clear over time and will probably be disputed anyway.

What is beyond doubt is that there are significant differences between the all-women state educated leadership in Holyrood male-dominated public schoolboys of Downing Street.

Worth watching.

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