Civil Service Posts (Dispersal)

Question Time — Scottish Executive – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 6th March 2003.

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Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent 2:30 pm, 6th March 2003

To ask the Scottish Executive on what criteria its decisions to disperse civil service and executive agency posts are based. (S1O-6586)

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

Relocation decisions are based on a range of factors, including costs, the quality and efficiency of service, economic factors such as unemployment and other indicators of deprivation, the availability and suitability of staff, transport issues, environmental considerations, the position of staff and the requirements of the organisation concerned.

Photo of Margo MacDonald Margo MacDonald Independent

I draw the minister's attention to the position in which Scottish Natural Heritage finds itself. He should treat the dispersal that is already evident in that agency as something of a prototype and model. Instead of pursuing some unholy grail to disperse people if they are not nailed down, should not he realise that losing between 50 per cent and 75 per cent of its staff in a dispersal programme from now on would not be in that agency's best interests?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

The Executive closely considers such matters in discussions. The holy grail in the case in question is to disperse jobs to parts of the country that can then become economically active, which will allow everybody to engage with the work of the Executive and the Parliament. Our relocation triggers allow us to make sensible decisions.

In my constituency, 2,500 people are employed by the Inland Revenue and more than 500 people are employed by the Department for International Development in East Kilbride. I think that we would lose those jobs under the policies of the member's former party. We want to ensure that we provide relocation for real jobs throughout Scotland to effect an impact on our communities rather than provide dislocation, which there would be under the policies of the member's former party.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

In applying the criteria, is the minister limited to discussing only Scottish Government and civil service jobs? Does the option still exist to attract United Kingdom civil service and Government jobs to Scotland? Does he pursue such issues?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

We are constantly engaged with fellow ministers in respect of such matters. We shout loud for Scotland when a valuable opportunity to relocate arises. The opportunity to relocate senior civil service jobs in Scotland would be lost under the SNP.

Photo of Jamie Stone Jamie Stone Liberal Democrat

Whitehall rather stole a march on us, as it has put 70 jobs in the Western Isles—doing so has been well received. The minister is aware that I am always banging the drum for Wick. Does he agree that putting pensions and information technology jobs into the far north would greatly boost the ailing economy in that part of Caithness?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

We bang a drum for all parts of Scotland. Our micro-policies seek to ensure that we put a small number of jobs into communities where a small number of jobs will have a massive impact. The Executive is committed to such policies to benefit all Scotland.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

The minister will be aware of bids from Inverness for SNH and Forest Enterprise relocations. Will he take into account the operational benefits to those organisations that could be delivered through relocation to Inverness?

Photo of Andy Kerr Andy Kerr Labour

I am aware of the member's close interest in such matters through letters and correspondence with her. A strong case is being made. The Executive must look at good opportunities throughout Scotland to allow services to be delivered and staff to engage properly within the process, and to ensure that we continue to deliver first-class, high-quality public services. The Executive considers such matters and we seek to make announcements in the near future.