The Court of Queen Nic

 Country PopulationMembers of ParliamentCabinet/Junior Ministers
 Scotland 5.517 million 129 27
 Norway  5.469 million  169 20
 Republic of Ireland 4.982 million 160 35

An odd development is the ever-increasing number of ministers and communication officers ever since Nicola Sturgeon took over as First Minister, and all this while the march to full self-governance is held back by none-other than those same ministers in thrall to Nicola Sturgeon. Kenny MacAskill MP reveals the size of the Scottish Government’s ministerial team has grown to the extent that it is now bigger in actual numbers than Norway and in proportional terms bigger than Ireland. (See chart above.) This despite the fact that the two Independent countries have considerably greater power than Scotland over the economy, taxation rates, social security, foreign affairs and international affairs.

Expanding Waistline

by Kenny MacAskill MP

Devolved Scotland now has more actual Ministers than independent Norway with 27 ministers in Scotland out of a parliament of 129 compared to 20 in Norway which has 169 MPs. This is despite Norway having significantly greater powers including over its currency and monetary policy, all taxation rates, foreign affairs, international development and defence.

In the case of Ireland just over a fifth (22%) of the members elected to their Parliament – 35 out of 160 are Ministers while in Scotland that figure has now risen to over a quarter (27%) – 27 out of 129. Again despite Ireland being an independent state.

We are seeing the Court of Queen Nic with the number of ministers now at the highest level ever in the history of Devolution. 

Under this Scottish Government progress on independence has stalled, despite there being a renewed mandate in the Parliament for a referendum. Meanwhile administering devolution has become the priority.

The Scottish Government has acquired limited additional powers since the Smith Commission reported in 2014, most notably over social security, powers which have still to be fully implemented. However none of this can justify the growth in the size of the Ministerial team and certainly not in relation to independent Ireland and Norway. The success of the Scottish Government in making progress on Independence as well as tackling the challenges facing the country in health, education, transport and jobs seems to be in inverse proportion to the number of Ministers appointed.

It seems that the more Scottish Ministers there are the less progress there actually is in preparing Scotland for Independence. Despite the highest number of ministers in the history of Devolution the Scottish Government has failed to update the Independence White Paper to take account of the changed circumstances since 2014 and they have failed to provide answers or even just basic information on issues such as currency, debt, trade and borders.

The fact remains that no number of ministers can compensate for the lack of progress on Independence as well as the overall policy vacuum, absence of vision and ambition displayed by the Scottish Government over a whole swathe of policy issues for which they have responsibility.



Government Cabinets vary according to population demographics and the geography of locality. The Scottish Government Cabinet sets the priorities for public policy. The cabinet is made up of the First Minister and all Cabinet Secretaries. Relationships of delegation exist within the cabinet, from the First Minister to the rest of the cabinet, and between cabinet secretaries and the junior ministers in each portfolio. Where government ministers are elected through proportional representation, such as the devolved governments of Scotland and Wales, coalitions are more likely produced. Collective ministerial responsibilities arise through the convention of a coalition government.

Comparisons of cabinet sizes can be drawn from the independent nations of Norway and the Republic of Ireland who have similar population sizes; although unlike Scotland their governments are responsible for all areas of legislation and government policy. Norway has a similar population to that of Scotland at around 5.5 million citizens. The parliament consists of 169 parliamentarians. The Norwegian Cabinet comprises of 20 senior government ministers including the Prime Minister operating a coalition government. The republic of Ireland has a population of just over 4.9 million people, represented by 160 parliamentarians elected by a system of proportional representation. The cabinet consists of 15 members including the Taoiseach and the Tanaiste, as well as a further 20 ministers.

This year has seen further ministerial increases to the Scottish government with 10 cabinet ministers appointed, as well as 17 junior ministers, an addition of 5 on previous years. This is the largest cabinet and ministerial team to date in the history of Devolution.

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1 Response to The Court of Queen Nic

  1. plusfoursmax says:

    Hi Grousebeater, ever read Parkinson’s Law? In this very funny tome, C Northcote Parkinsonlays out how bureaucratic busyness causes offices to grow even as power wanes.

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