Universities (Senior Appointments)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 26 June 2013.

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Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Independent

7. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has with universities when they are replacing senior posts, such as principals. (S4O-02298)

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

The recruitment of senior staff is entirely a matter for individual universities as autonomous and independent bodies, and not for the Scottish ministers.

Photo of John Finnie John Finnie Independent

In the foreword to the “Public Sector Pay Policy for Staff Pay Remits 2011-12”, the Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, John Swinney, stated:

“To help maintain staffing levels across the public sector, it is essential that we restrict pay growth and maintain pay at levels that are affordable and sustainable.”

He went on to say that a pay freeze for all staff would apply in 2011-12.

The Scottish Parliament information centre produced a paper for me on the pay of principals. From 2010-11 to 2011-12, the salary of the principal of the University of the Highlands and Islands increased by 31 per cent to £227,000: an obscene increase to an obscene sum.

Given that that particular post is due to be replaced, what steps will the cabinet secretary take to bring some restraint to senior academic salaries? If he does not have the powers to do so, what steps is he taking to acquire them?

Photo of Michael Russell Michael Russell Scottish National Party

As I am sure John Finnie is aware, I have made it clear whenever I have been asked questions or spoken on that issue that right across the public sector—and not just in universities—people need to lead by example.

Indeed, I remember a question on the matter, to which I was pleased to respond, from George Foulkes when he was a member in this chamber. I agree with those who say that the example needs to be clear and obvious and that it needs to demonstrate restraint, particularly at this stage.

I encourage everybody in the public sector to show restraint and to lead by example, as ministers and members in this chamber are doing by not taking pay increases. It is essential that that happens, and the members of the university sector who ask me for advice on the matter—as some principals have—receive a very clear piece of advice: “Do not accept any increase, and make sure you lead by example.”