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Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:22 pm on 25th March 2010.

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Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party 4:22 pm, 25th March 2010

It is always nice to warm our hands at a wee bonfire and it is lovely to have a wee toastie fire of the things that we do not need. I am delighted to see the first flames licking around the feet of the quango state. Being an accomplished fire walker, I know how that feels.

I like the fact that the Government will be able to change the functions and operations of quangos much more easily in the future. The role that Parliament will have in any decisions that ministers want to take in relation to quangos means that parliamentary scrutiny of the quango state will carry with it a rather large stick. I appreciate that some members might disagree with me on that point, but I am sure that they will come round in the fullness of time.

There are serious safeguards in the legislation now. The powers to change quangos, which the bill will introduce, are similar to the powers in the Local Government in Scotland Act 2003. I like the parts that require public bodies to publish details about their financial transactions and the pay of their top cats. I also like the idea that details of payments to special advisers will be published. Open and transparent government is one of the founding principles of this place.

I also like the idea of social care and social work improvement Scotland and the model that has been presented for it. Social work has so often been the Cinderella of public services, but it provides important services to our society. If we can create one single cohesive body that will benchmark services throughout the country, offer advice on improvements and produce regular reports on performance, we might go some way towards matching the professionalism of the modern social worker with the regulatory system that governs their working life.

Of course, SCSWIS will not stand alone. Part 6 of the bill will require scrutiny bodies to focus on service users and co-operate across agencies up to and including having joint inspections, where that is appropriate. I know that my colleague Karen Whitefield sought to place a requirement on SCSWIS to work jointly with Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education on inspections, but that already exists and SCSWIS will have that expertise.

The extension of joint inspections to adult services is particularly welcome, especially for the most vulnerable adults in our communities. Each of the scrutiny bodies will have to ensure that it is delivering the best possible service and support for front-line workers.

When we clean up the landscape, we see the safe roads and the pitfalls ahead of us and the benefits and disadvantages stand in starker relief. Quangos will operate in a more streamlined and publicly accountable manner, with minds focused more on the job at hand.

When the bill is passed later today, there will be a good reason for quangocrats to keep a weather eye on what their organisation is doing and how well it is doing it, lest some of us politicians decide to have a closer look. I believe that Scotland will be well served by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Bill.