Tuesday, 21 Sep 2021

Sturgeon splurges £180,000 of taxpayers money on new adviser tasked with securing IndyRef2

Alex Salmond inquiry: Jackie Baillie slams committee

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The new Scottish Government Permanent Secretary will be Nicola Sturgeon’s new top adviser and will take office next March. The new chief civil servant in Ms Sturgeon’s administration with a taxpayer-funded salary of £180,000 will oversee preparations for a second independence referendum with a draft referendum bill expected to be brought forward by SNP Ministers in the upcoming Holyrood sitting.

The Scottish First Minister will personally choose the candidate to replace Leslie Evans, who came under fire for her role in the botched investigation of sexual assault allegations against Alex Salmond.

Mr Salmond was cleared of all charges and also successfully challenged the Government’s investigation at the Edinburgh Court of Session, resulting in him receiving more than £600,000 of Scottish Government money in legal fees.

The Scottish Parliament inquiry was highly critical of Ms Evans’s role saying she was guilty of an “individual failing” in the handling of complaints.

Despite this, Ms Sturgeon has backed her chief Mandarin and extended her employment contract to March 2022 when she will step down after almost 10 years.

Holyrood opposition parties are calling for the new top civil servant to be able to “stand up” to SNP ministers and be fully transparent.

Murdo Fraser MSP, who was part of the Holyrood Harassment Complaints Committee which oversaw the Salmond inquiry, said: “A new Permanent Secretary must be willing to stand up to SNP Ministers as well as being fully transparent with the Scottish public about any decision-making after so many failures to do so in recent years.

“Assurances must be given that the next person in this role will not undermine parliamentary scrutiny and is willing to be held to account at every turn.

“We simply cannot see a repeat of the major failings under Leslie Evans’ leadership.

“She will shortly be enjoying a lavish pension despite her critical errors in relation to the Salmond inquiry, which let down the brave women who made sexual harassment complaints.”

Alex Cole-Hamilton, incoming Scottish Lib Dem leader, added: “On Leslie Evans’ watch the Government’s handling of harassment allegations collapsed, letting down the women at the heart of the case and costing the taxpayer hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“The role of Permanent Secretary brings with it a substantial pay packet as well as a key role at the heart of the Scottish Government.

“I hope that the next person to take on the role will ensure that no complainants are let down or money wasted.”

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The SNP-led Government has started advertising for the new successor, who will earn £10,000 more than Ms Evans and around £20,000 more than Mr Johnson’s 2020-21 salary of £157,372.

The job advert hinted at a second independence referendum by stating “an evolving constitutional context.”

It added: “As Permanent Secretary, you will provide leadership and direction for the Scottish Government in support of Ministers.

“You will play a key leadership role across Scottish public services, including communicating the Scottish Government’s priorities and values within and beyond Scotland.

“You will lead the Scottish Government’s relationship with the civil service in Whitehall, and the other devolved governments, in an evolving constitutional context.

“We are looking for a leader who can build trusted relationships with Ministers and a multiplicity of partners.”

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