JOHN Swinney has cut the number of special advisers on the First Minister’s team after taking office.

The new SNP leader has seven special advisers listed on the official government website, including chief of staff Colin McAllister.

The advisers, termed "spads", provide advice across all portfolio areas in the Scottish Government.

While Humza Yousaf was first minister there were 17 special advisers including McAllister, who was again serving as chief of staff.

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One was Gavin Corbett, a former Scottish Green councillor who worked with that party’s ministers. Corbett left at the end of March and he was removed from the list after Yousaf put an end to the Bute House Agreement and kicked Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater out of government.

As such, after taking power, Swinney has cut the special adviser team down from 16 to seven. 

However, a Government spokesperson said that further appointments or reappointments would "be made to the special adviser team in due course".  

On May 16, four further appointments were announced taking the total to 11.

Kevin Pringle, a former SNP communications director who was brought back to serve as Yousaf's official spokesperson in June 2023, is among those who are no longer working for the Scottish Government.

Under Nicola Sturgeon, there were 14 special advisers in her first year in office, and 18 in her final year.

The SNP faced criticism in May 2023 after it was revealed that Government spending on the special advisers rose by nearly £500,000 between 2021-22 and 2022-23.

In Sturgeon’s final year in office, the special adviser team cost a total of £1,909,843 including all salary costs and the employer's National Insurance and pension contributions, the BBC reported.

Swinney’s slimmed-down team is expected to cost significantly less, and reflects a ministerial team that has also been slightly streamlined.

Under Yousaf, the Scottish Government had a Cabinet of 10, which was supported by 18 junior ministers. These included Green ministers Slater and Harvie.

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Sturgeon (above) had a ministerial team which also had a Cabinet of 10, alongside 17 junior ministers including the two Greens.

Under Swinney, the Cabinet has grown by one to 11, but there are four fewer junior ministers, on 14.

The news comes after Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser, in a report published by the think tank Reform Scotland, recommended reviewing the number of MSPs, currently 129, and capping the number of ministers.

Fraser highlighted the fact that the Scottish Parliament has more powers than it did when established in 1999 and work at committee and chamber level has increased.

He further suggested that the number of ministers should be regularly reviewed in proportion to the number of MSPs with a “view to introducing a cap in the case that the number of ministers is above what the Parliament deems to be acceptable or necessary”.

Edit: This article previous stated that Gavin Corbett left government after the end of the Bute House Agreement. He actually left around one month before that, and the special adviser list was only updated later.