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Labour has promised Scottish women better childcare, higher pay and equal representation on the boards of public bodies to counter nationalist efforts to increase female support for independence.

“The best future for Scottish women is inside the United Kingdom, where we can pool our resources and share the risk across 65m people, and not just 5m,” said Margaret Curran, Labour’s shadow Scottish secretary.

Opinion polls suggest the Scottish National party is finding it much more difficult to build support for independence among women than among men, despite arguing that leaving the UK would allow a Scandinavian-style “transformation” of childcare.

To boost female support, Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister and SNP leader, announced that two women will be made full members of the Scottish cabinet, leaving it 40 per cent female – the level it will target on company boards after independence.

Labour has dismissed the SNP promises as tokenism and on Tuesday announced five pledges that would be implemented by Scottish and UK Labour governments if Scotland rejects independence on September 18.

The pledges include 25 hours of childcare a week for every three and four year-old to be funded by a UK bank levy, tax incentives to improve pay for low-paid workers and legislation to ensure women can return to work after maternity leave.

The boards of all Scottish public authorities would have a 50 per cent female quota addressing what Labour says is severe under-representation of women at many public organisations. 

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