We would not normally quote from the Sun newspaper, one of Rupert Murdoch’s slagging rags, but in this instance the newspaper is quoting from government documents obtained under Freedom of Information rules (FoI). They throw light on the depressing extent to which our civil servants have their fingers in the till.
One good reason to publish is to illustrate the lack of a strict civil service code that bans civil servants from renumarated links with business and corporations or shareholders in companies where it is obvious there will be a conflict of interest. This is a kind of insider trading; civil servants get first-hand information on new ventures and compromise their code of ethics and themselves by taking a stake in the enterprise, a form of averice, greed to you and me. The fact that the Scotsman newspaper (in the first instance) had a battle to retrieve the details shows civil service is embarrassed about the issue. Several of those involved are senior figures earning large salaries.
A fine salary appears not enough to live on. No matter how much the SNP say they have everything under control, they do not. The freedoms offered are corrosive to honest governance. The SNP has done nothing to limit or stop the practise. It is corruption by any name. This is another indication that the SNP is not in the least radical about anything except creating gender confusion among children and alienating women.
An official behind the botched Scottish Government probe into Alex Salmond is among a list of civil servants with external financial interests, documents revealed. Judith MacKinnon – who is director of a human resources and business coaching consultancy, one official involved in the fiasco of hunting an innocent man to ruin his reputation – is one of more than 450 staff who make money or hold roles away from their taxpayer-funded work.
Anonymised details of 99 of the civil servants – all with links to companies in the past five years – were released by the Holyrood Government after a freedom of information battle, amid concerns second jobs or external roles could pose a conflict of interest.
As well as Ms MacKinnon, others included a senior civil servant who is director of a new drinks firm, Pentland Spirit.Companies checks show the individual is Food Standards Scotland deputy chief executive Julie Hesketh-Laird, former a boss at the Scotch Whisky Association.Several senior civil servants from the Scottish Government’s legal services work as contractors, and there are two listings in the same department for directors and shareholders of a “company building houses in Edinburgh”.
There are two entries among the senior civil servant list for directors of an IT consultancy.In the lower ranks of civil servants – earning up to around £72,000 – there are others with IT and consultant roles, and a string of officials from the agriculture and rural economy directorate with jobs or stajkes in farming-related businesses.
One civil servant at the directorate for communications and ministerial support is listed as “delivering and collecting of catalogues and delivering of orders”.
An official in the directorate of justice is listed as having a 50 percent share in a bar in the Philippines, but the name is redacted. An official in the “directorate for Covid Public Health” is listed as having set up a “decluttering and organising business as a sole trader”. And a person who works in the digital directorate lists themselves as consultant on digital matters for a US firm on digital.
Lib Dem Willie Rennie said: “The First Minister must say what safeguards there are to prevent conflict-of-interest scandals.” A Scottish Government spokesman replied: “We have robust arrangements so external undertakings are declared by staff and don’t conflict with their position.”
Judith MacKinnon’s role in the internal investigation into Mr Salmond led to the collapse of the probe and bill of more than £500,000 to taxpayers, after it emerged, she’d had prior contact with the two women complainers.
No names were provided by the Scottish Government of the officials 463, with bosses citing a “personal information” exemption under FoI laws. After a freedom of information appeal by a journalist from the Scotsman, the government agreed to give details of the businesses related to 99 of the outside interests, along with the department they work for. They argued that “volunteering in charitable organisations” did not fall within the “scope” of the FoI request, meaning no details were provided for hundreds of other roles. Fourteen of the entries provided were listed as “SCS” – high-earning senior civil servants.
A further 85 were listed as the pay grades A-C, which go up to around £72,000.One entry said a senior civil servant from the “Directorate of People” was “Business owner of Mackinnon Partners (Executive Coaching and HR)”. This is understood to be Ms MacKinnon, who is director and company secretary of MacKinnon Partners, whose HQ is listed as being at Finnieston Business Park in Glasgow.
The response from the government stressed that the roles provided were held “within the last five years”, meaning they do “not necessarily indicate that the role is presently held by the civil servant in question”.
Companies House documents show that while Ms MacKinnon is still director and secretary of the firm, her husband has been the only shareholder since February 2020. The disclosure comes after criticism of potential double-jobbing in Whitehall, after it was revealed senior civil servant Bill Crithers had advised the finance firm Greensill while still a public official.
“I have been a civil servant in a body which gave out grants of £400 million a year and always took the view that we should have no external links to companies or organisations. Some argued it helped gain an external perspective but plenty of ways to do that without formal links.” Former civil servant, Robert Baxter