Quangos now employing more than a year ago
THE number of people working for Scottish quangos has increased over the past year, despite a pledge by Alex Salmond, the First Minister, that there would be a "bonfire" of the public bodies.
The latest figures reveal that 37,300 people were employed by quasi non-governmental organisations in the third quarter of 2008, 1.2 per cent up on the same quarter last year.
The rise emerged as latest unemployment figures for Scotland showed a rise of 12,000.
The same figures also reveal that the proportion of employees working in the public sector has risen slightly since last year from 22.5 per cent to 22.6 per cent.
The increase in people employed in quangos comes as an embarrassment for the SNP administration.
Mr Salmond and his finance secretary, John Swinney, had seen quangos as a major target in providing efficiency savings on government spending, but although the Scottish Government has succeeded in reducing the number of quangos from 199 to 165, this has not been reflected in the number of employees.
A spokesman for Mr Swinney said that much of the increase in staff could be accounted for in the creation of the Scottish Police Services Authority (SPSA) launched last year with 1,600 personnel. He also pointed out that there had been a 4.1 per cent decrease from the fourth quarter of last year, despite the rise when compared with the third quarter.
At the first post-election conference in Aviemore in 2007, Mr Salmond promised to end the "overlap and duplication" that he claimed was rife in Scotland's 200 public bodies and he used his keynote speech at the SNP conference to announce moves to axe a quarter of quangos.
He claimed it would free up the money that he needed to meet his party's ambitious spending plans.
Eddie Frizzard, an expert in public policy at Queen Margaret's University, warned that making savings through reducing quangos is easier said than done.
"Ministers often talk about reducing quangos to save on government waste, but then they struggle because they usually do a job that has to be done," he said. "In reality what they need to do is go back to first principles and look at functions and decide whether they want them done or not."
Mr Swinney was highly critical of the previous Labour/Liberal Democrat administration for the number of quangos it created.
He made great play of the fact that Labour's Henry McLeish, when he was First Minister, had himself called for a bonfire of the quangos, but his successor, Jack McConnell, increased their number.
When the Labour/Lib Dem administration left office there were the equivalent of 36,700 full-time posts, 600 fewer than today under the SNP. Opposition parties were quick to seize on the figures.
Labour's economy spokesman, John Park, said: "Alex Salmond promised a bonfire but has so far produced a damp squib. People will be rightly upset that the SNP are growing jobs for well-paid bureaucrats when other sectors are struggling."
Tory finance spokesman Derek Brownlee MSP added:
"The SNP should focus its effort on creating jobs in the rest of the economy, and prioritising front-line public services, rather than growing the offshoots of government."
The political row has centred not just on the role of the SNP government. The Liberal Democrats have claimed that the Conservatives have also played a part in the increase of a quango state by supporting the creation of the Scottish Futures Trust and Skills Development Scotland.
Liberal Democrat finance spokesman Jeremy Purvis said: "This is outrageous hypocrisy. We gave the Tories two opportunities to prevent the number of quangos ballooning.
"But Derek Brownlee voted with the nationalists to establish new skills quango Skills Development Scotland and the shockingly expensive 23 million Scottish Futures Trust. The payroll costs alone for this quango is 14.5 million."
The Conservatives hit back by claiming both Labour and the Lib Dems have twice helped vote through funding for the Scottish Futures Trust in the past few weeks.
The Scottish Government has pointed to the fact that the figures show a rise in front-line jobs such as teachers, policemen, dentists and nurses.
At the same time they point out that while there has been a slight increase in the proportion of people employed in the public sector over the past year of 0.1 per cent, there has been a fall since 1999 of 0.2 per cent.
Mr Swinney said this confirmed that public money was going where people wanted it.
"These figures clearly demonstrate that we are delivering on our objective to deliver more resources for vital public services – with record police numbers and front-line health service workers, and increased numbers employed in education since we came into office," he said.
He said that the Scottish Government was substantially cutting the number of national public sector bodies – the first time any government in Scotland has acted to slash the number of quangos.
And he said the 25 per cent target would be reached by 2011.
Roads to root vegetables and coats of arms to cavities – welcome to Quangoland
Scottish Roadworks Commissioner
This office is an independent public official established under section 16 of the Transport (Scotland) Act 2005.
John Gooday's job involves improving the planning, co-ordination and quality of road works throughout Scotland.
He monitors performance, along with promoting and encouraging good practice across utility companies and roads authorities. He can also impose financial penalties.
Scottish Crop Research Institute
BASED in Invergowrie near Dundee, the SCRI's research focuses on processes that regulate the growth of plants and their responses to pests, diseases and the environment.
The main customer for SCRI's research is the Scottish Government, although it undertakes research for other organisations. Research is conducted on a wide range of plants but particularly barley, potato and raspberry.
Court of Lord Lyon
THIS is the official heraldry office for Scotland.
As the official heraldic authority for Scotland it deals with all matters relating to Scottish Heraldry and Coats of Arms and maintains the Scottish Public Registers of Arms and Genealogies.
In effect it polices the use or misuse of coats of arms and also acts in a consultative role with the clan system, their membership and chieftains.
The Sustainable Development Commission Scotland is the government's independent advisor on sustainable development and employs seven people in its secretariat. It reports to the First Minister on key policy areas including: energy, the economy, climate change, governance and food with the aim of helping the government put sustainable development at the heart of what it does.
Office of the Queen's Printer
It provides access to Scottish legislation and delivers a range of services to the public, information industry and government relating to the re-use of information created by the devolved government for Scotland. The Queen's Printer for Scotland reports directly to Scottish Ministers but is not officially a government department. It publishes acts of the Scottish Parliament and explanatory notes.
The Scottish Advisory Committee on Distinction Awards employs 17 advisors and was set up, in November 1998.
It is a non-departmental public body, which acts on behalf of Scottish ministers in deciding which individual medical and dental consultants in the NHS in Scotland should receive distinction awards for outstanding professional work.
How the numbers add up for Scotland's quangos
The number of extra quangos currently being proposed, the Judicial Appointments Board.
number of First Ministers who have called for a Bonfire of the Quangos.
the number of mergers to reduce quangos, including Sport Scotland with the Scottish the Institute of Sport.
Tribunals on the Scottish Government quango list.
7.6 per cent
Percentage of Scottish full time jobs in quangos.
Scottish Government agencies on the Scottish quango list.
Advisory bodies on quango list.
Number of NHS quangos in Scotland.
Current number of quangos
Number of quangos in April 2007.
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