Sir Peter Housden (pictured) began his career as a comprehensive school teacher in Shropshire and worked as an education officer in three county authorities before being appointed Director of Education in Nottinghamshire in 1991.
From Nottingham he moved to London where he rose through the ranks to become Permanent Secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Why am I telling you about someone you've possibly never heard of? Sir Peter was appointed as Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government in June 2010 and is being accused of having 'gone native' by Scottish Unionist parties. The Unionists are so incensed by Sir Peter's support of the SNP government that they are lodging complaints with Sir Gus O'Donnell, the Westminster cabinet secretary and the UK's most senior civil servant.
What are Sir Peter's offences? He sends weekly updates to more than 5,000 Scottish government civil servants on the work he is undertaking and personal musings, but some have become concerned that the briefings have 'crossed the line' into politics. As well as recommending his colleagues see a play that deals with the English army's shaky attempts to impose order in Scotland, in a memo sent just after the SNP's historic win in May, he said:
“And now we go to it.
“This will be a remarkable period in Scotland's history as we embark on a journey toward constitutional reform with the near-term strengthening of the Scotland Bill and a referendum in the second half of the parliament.
“It's remarkable how the terms of this debate have changed irrevocably in just three weeks. Calman and the status quo now seem lost in the mists of time.”
To further inflame the Unionists, Sir John Elvidge, who stood down as Permanent Secretary last year, has written a glowing article in praise of the nationalists, suggesting that he helped Alex Salmond stay in power and contributed to his 'political success'. But there's more. Sir John had the temerity to mention that 'senior civil servants were "sceptical" about the previous Labour/Libdem administration'.
Also from Sir John's personal musings, we learn that the SNP government allow special advisers to take part in Cabinet discussions on government policy. What a revelation! Senior civil servants doing their job and supporting the government of the day.
It is common knowledge in Scotland that the SNP are governing efficiently and effectively and the people will be pleased to note that our elected representatives are making the best possible use of our civil servants' talents.
Somehow I feel Sir Gus will answer the unionists in two words - 'grow up'. It's refreshing to hear the opinions of mandarins who, many would say, run the country. As for Sir Peter's weekly updates - I want one too.