Scotland’s public sector carousel must cease

How nice.  The Scottish Government economic advisor has got himself a decent retirement berth at Strathclyde university.

Not content to put his feet up or pull on his gardening shoes just yet, Andrew Goudie will be taking up a Professorship in the School of Government and Public Policy at the university when he retires from the Scottish Government at the end of the month.

It can’t be because he needs the money.  His pension, based as it is, no doubt, on his final salary will be eye-wateringly good.  This is not a blogpost about the politics of envy – and apologies if these pithy comments come across as such – it is an attack on the cosy club that exists at the top of the public sector in Scotland.   They step in and out of high ranking and high paying posts with alacrity, and nary an open and transparent recruitment process encountered on the way.

What is it with these people?  Why can’t they just grow old disgracefully?

Did Mr Goudie apply for this post?  Was it advertised publicly?  Did he beat off a select field of candidates, going through the rigours of interview and assessment?

Indeed, I’m not even sure that the country’s most senior economic advisor – even with the berth at the World Bank in his portfolio – has the right credentials for this role.  It is about developing and implementing an international strategy for the university.  Hmm, I bet it comes with lots of travel and a big expenses account too then.

Meanwhile, Strathclyde university is closing courses and shifting its focus towards becoming an institute of technology.  Whatever the rights and wrongs of this strategy, people who have been trained and have real experience in teaching at this level are losing their jobs.  And all over the country are young graduates and postgraduates trying to get a foothold in the world of academia and largely failing.  The number of jobs on offer is hugely disproportionate to the number of applications they attract.  I’m sure they are all delighted for Mr Goudie.

This is but one current example of the culture of cronyism that exists in Scotland the clachan, something I railed about in the context of Westminster’s toxic soup.   Mr Goudie is not the first example of this particularly unpleasant practice of people at the top of the public sector accruing position and influence in all spheres of life.  But this does not make it right and it is time that it was swept away.

The carousel between Scottish Government and universities, in particular, operates too fast and too often.  We have a hierarchy of officials who having been schooled in a certain way of thinking and acting, are now transferring these talents and skills to the next generation.  Their ethos and values, their way of working, is perpetuated.  Where is the diversity?  The new ideas?  The ability to inspire?

Such appointments simply reinforce establishment Scotland and embed the institutionalised way of thinking which has its grip on our country.  Yet, at a time when we are purported to be moving forward on our journey to nationhood, surely we need to be throwing out the old, the people who for decades have kept Scotland’s ambitions low and well within their comfort zones.  Let’s, for a moment, glance at Mr Goudie’s record.

Eminent economic advisor he may be, but his time in the Scottish civil service has seen Scotland’s GDP lag consistently below that of the UK as a whole.  What, exactly, has he done to contribute strategically to Scottish economic growth and where is the proof of his achievements?  And on an entirely political point, he has been part of the team that the SNP has spent many years fighting against, in terms of accurate reporting of Scotland’s assets and financial deficits.  So why on earth is the SNP prepared now to allow him to leave one part of their government for greater glory and riches in another?

Some might say – and no doubt they will  – that he was the best of a bad bunch, that some of his work allowed the SNP’s economic arguments to gather credibility.  I’ll counter that then, with the work of Jim and Margaret Cuthbert, who have spent years on the outside of the economic pond, being dismissed by the likes of Mr Goudie, yet whose arguments and analysis are proving much more sustainable than anything produced by the Scottish civil service over the years.

Like many others, Mr Goudie has been an intelligent and diligent public servant but that by itself, is not enough.

We need our universities to promote radicalism and freshness, to produce graduates with huge self-esteem and confidence, who believe in the possible and think it is all eminently achievable.   Kids who can do, in short.  It’s not something they are likely to do if they resemble a retirement home, with their top strategic chairs arranged in a semi-circle marking time.





2 thoughts on “Scotland’s public sector carousel must cease

  1. I can’t comment on the individual here but I think the general observation is fair.

    I have watched the careers of senior management leaving the organisation I work for and it’s fair to say that some careers seem to sustain a longevity and degree of influence that is not always consistent with their abilities and knowledge.

  2. A pretty sour little piece not worthy of comment

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