Parliament - Scottish Assembly: Lib Dems get key jobs in Scotland

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The Independent Online
DONALD DEWAR, Scotland's First Minister, attempted to secure his coalition with the Liberal Democrats yesterday by giving the party two key junior ministerial posts.

Nicol Stephen was appointed deputy minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning. He will help to defuse the timebomb ofuniversity tuition fees, which his party seeks to abolish against Labour wishes.

With several of the 17 Liberal Democrat MSPs opposed to the coalition, the appointment of another, Iain Smith, as deputy business manager and whip, is aimed at maintaining unity. The Liberal Democrats now hold four of the 22 ministerial posts - two of them within the Cabinet.

The First Minister responded to claims that his cabinet appointments failed to represent rural areas by making several appointments of MSPs from outlying regions. Alasdair Morrison, a Gaelic-speaking Labour MSP, was appointed deputy minister for the Highlands and Islands.

Mr Dewar said: "I am particularly pleased about the geographical spread, with over a quarter of ministers drawn from outside the central belt."