Public Administration CommitteeWritten evidence submitted by the Scottish Government (CSR 32)

Thank you for your recent letter inviting me to provide written evidence to your Committee’s inquiry into the future of the civil service. You explained that the Committee is keen to consider the impact of devolution on the challenges facing the Civil Service. I have addressed your more specific questions in the comments that follow.

As civil servants, our responsibility is twofold:

to deliver the policies of the elected Government of Scotland, which includes delivering the current Scottish Government’s Purpose of creating a more successful country by increasing sustainable economic growth with an opportunity for all of Scotland to flourish; and

to act with integrity, impartiality, objectivity and honesty.

The Scottish Government is committed to an outcomes-based approach. This means:

the focus of public spending and action builds on the needs, assets and potential of individuals, families, enterprises and communities, rather than being dictated by professional silos and organizational boundaries; and

seeking alignment and positive engagement with our stakeholders and delivery partners on the basis of mutual respect and shared endeavour.

Since 2007, the Scottish Government has introduced radical changes to enhance our capability to take an outcome-based approach. In particular, we have:

abolished departmental structures within the Scottish Government to discourage silos and facilitate effective crosscutting government;

sought to align the whole public sector to a single defined Purpose and National Outcomes; 1

established a partnership across all public services based on that Purpose; and

put strategic leadership and the facilitation of cooperation between organisations and sections of society at the heart of the role of central government.

We continue to develop these approaches. We see four sets of imperatives for the civil service in Scotland, under the headings “Choices for Scotland”, “A Scotland that works”; “A creative Scotland”; and “Being the Scotland we want to see”. I attach an extract from our Business Strategy setting these out.

We have good working relationships with counterparts supporting the UK Government. Working with the Cabinet Office and the Scotland Office, we seek to ensure that our counterparts are aware and take account of the distinct interests, responsibilities and accountabilities of Scottish Ministers. This can be challenging where staff turnover erodes personal relationships or when, as inevitably happens from time to time, policy positions are in tension. By working together, however, we have shown that the two administrations can achieve “win-win” outcomes even in areas where their policy preferences are markedly different. The “Edinburgh Agreement” on a referendum on independence, signed by the Prime Minister and the First Minister in October 2012, provides an example.

We believe our outcomes-based approach underpins the Scottish Government’s reputation for competence, validated in the findings of the Scottish Social Attitudes Survey,2 showing that almost two-thirds of Scots trust the Scottish Government to work in Scotland’s interests, and about the same proportion think that the Scottish Government ought to have the most influence on decisions affecting Scotland.

We have taken opportunities on the international stage for learning and exchanges, and enjoyed some positive feedback. Speaking at the OECD Conference on Wellbeing in New Delhi last year, Professor Joseph Stiglitz for example highlighted “some of the most recent “success stories” in well-being measurement, such as Bhutan, Canada and Scotland”.3

In comparing our experience with that of the UK civil service, it is clear that the main challenges we face are the same: delivering effective and improving public services, consistent with the core civil service values, in the face of unprecedented fiscal consolidation and reducing staff numbers, while striving to maintain an engaged, committed and developing workforce. A collaborative and supportive approach across government and the wider public sector has proved effective in enabling us to achieve all we have in recent years.



Four sets of imperatives for the Civil Service in Scotland in the period ahead

Choices for Scotland

Ensuring strategic policy choices are underpinned by high quality evidence and analysis.

Understanding more about the way in which we can help individuals, families and communities to enhance their well-being and prosperity through an asset based approach.

A Scotland that Works

Ensuring that—across the piece—the Scottish Government is an efficient, effective and networked organisation, disrespecting boundaries and focusing on improved outcomes.

Improving value for money and offering transparency on performance.

Simplifying the delivery landscape and taking out cost.

Working to ensure the application of these principles across public services.

A Creative Scotland

Empowering staff and making our organisations and networks real hubs for innovation.

Fostering innovation and creativity, speeding up cycles of improvement and the exploitation of knowledge and new technologies in public service.

Developing the frameworks and incentives for local innovation and service improvement.

Being the Scotland we Want to See

Believing in our people. Giving everyone a chance to shine. Nurturing talent.

Treating everyone with dignity and respect.

Upholding Civil Service values, with the highest standards of integrity and ethics.

Building our personal well being, leading full and balanced lives at work and at home.

May 2013



3 Professor Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001, was President of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress and is a member of the Scottish Government's Council of Economic Advisers.

Prepared 5th September 2013