MSPs have ordered a report into the extent of college “sweetheart deals” across Scotland after it emerged they went beyond a controversial £850,000 payout to senior staff at one axed college.
Opposition leaders say the row over severance deals at Coatbridge College is likely to be the “tip of iceberg” after funding chiefs admitted that other senior staff received similar deals during a national shake-up of the sector which saw widespread mergers.
Deposed Coatbridge College principal John Doyle defended the £304,000 severance package he received when it was amalgamated as he appeared before Holyrood’s public petitions committee yesterday.
Audit chiefs slammed the payouts and MSPs claimed key guidelines on pay-outs had been “withheld” from the college committee which decided on the payouts. Asked later if he should say sorry for the payouts, Mr Doyle said: “I don’t think its appropriate for me to apologise for something I’ve not done.”
The row took a fresh turn yesterday when the Scottish Funding Council admitted that other deals had been agreed, although these fell within their guidelines.
Mr Doyle, who earned £116,000 a year, was given a 21-month lump sum, plus three months for completing the merger and a further six months’ pay in lieu of notice, totalling 30 months’ pay.
Asked if others had struck agreements of up to 24 months in severance, SFC chief executive Laurence Howells added: “Others have had those deals, but they would have been part of a uniform deal at that college and done through proper process.”
He added: “There have been deals of 20 to 21 months.”
About 600 college staff were axed as part of drive to create 20 regional “super colleges” from about 37 previous institutions.
Committee convener Paul Martin called for the SFC to provide details of other principals from around Scotland who may have received similar deals as part of the college mergers.
Former Liberal Democrat leader Tavish Scott said: “The sweetheart deals we saw at
Coatbridge could have been replicated at other colleges affected by the SNP’s merger programme. SNP ministers need to come clean over the extent of payments that have been made across Scotland.
“For all we know, Coatbridge could be the tip of the iceberg.”