A guest post by Sheila.
There has been much fuss and bluster in the press recently regarding civil servants, past and present, “going native”. The spin seems to be that the mandarins are “parroting” the SNP agenda. Well I’m starting to wonder just who is parroting whom.
Sir John Elvidge was Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government from July 2003 - June 2010. In June of this this year he delivered the Michael Shea Memorial Lecture at an event hosted by the International Futures Forum and the Royal Society of Edinburgh. In his speech he jokes about how the majority of the Scottish population have never heard of the Scotland Performs website.. What, you too? He continues to explain that the site is part of what he has recently learned from his contacts in Australia to call the Scottish Model of Government.
What we should be focusing on is just how this brave new Scottish Model of Government came about. It was reported quite widely, by the Guardian amongst others - with a link to Sir John’s report: Northern Exposure - Lessons from the first twelve years of devolved government in Scotland.
Maybe it is a bit dry compared with civil servants “going native” or maybe it is too much to ask that our MSPs think for themselves and dig just a wee bit deeper?
In the article,“ Lessons from Scotland on streamlining government”, Sir John says that “radical changes he made under the minority SNP party in 2007 – which involved abolishing departments, redefining top civil service roles and aligning the entire Scottish public sector around a single framework of national purpose that would be tracked and measured – were a world first.”
Suddenly - apparently - everyone is learning lessons from Scotland - Wales has been since June. Our current elected members are probably glowing with pride and self-congratulation.... Quite why, I’m not sure, because they don’t seem to have had a lot to do with any of this..
"A key theme throughout this report is our recognition of
the progress made over the last four years by the Scottish
Government in developing the National Performance
Framework (NPF). As one of our members put it: “The most
important fact about the NPF is that it exists”. The innovative
work and thinking in developing it should not be overlooked,
and those involved in its inception deserve praise.
However, we are very concerned that through the ebb
and flow of politics – and with regular elections – there is
a significant risk of all this experience being lost and the
framework itself being abandoned either now or in the
The quote is from a recent Carnegie Foundation report: More than GDP:Measuring what matters (taking dry to new level!) by the Round Table on Measuring Economic Performance and Social Progress in Scotland of which Sir John is also a member.
The Round Table took the findings of the 2009 Stiglitz Report (positively dessicated!), which emerged from a Commission established by President Sarkozy and recommended that Scotland should shift its emphasis from measuring economic performance to measuring wellbeing; all within the National Performance Framework that Sir John is so proud to have brought into being and is keen to export to the rest of the UK and beyond.
In late 2010, Professor Stiglitz became a member of the Council of Economic Advisers which was set up in 2007 to advise the First Minister on the best way to improve Scotland’s sustainable economic growth rate and last month a stampede of NGOs signed up to a briefing paper urging the Government to revise the National Performance Framework along the lines recommended by the “Carnegie Round Table” which, as previously stated above, puts a kilt on the Stiglitz report.
So quite how this process is at any risk whatsoever from the "ebb and flow of politics" and "regular elections" is a bit of a mystery to me.
Whether Sir John's system of governance is for good or bad, it seems to be happening and going places...
Meanwhile the “over-arching purpose” of this system seems to be changing to bring us in line with a report commissioned by a French president, written by an American economist, rubber stamped by the EU and currently being implemented across the globe. Interesting times, as they say...
So where exactly do our elected members fit into this process? And would the process have been any different with another variety of politician "in power"? Sir John seems to have a pretty cosy relationship with the last lot too.