All change up on Calton Hill

THERE have been two revolutions in Scotland this week. One was highly visible and historic: the election of a Nationalist administration at Holyrood. The other has been barely noticed yet, in its own context, is almost as revolutionary as the changes to the government of Scotland. Quietly, efficiently, without fanfare but with great care, the Scottish civil service has been transformed.

To parallel the new ministries that Alex Salmond, the First Minister, has implemented, Sir John Elvidge, the permanent Secretary at the Scottish Executive, reengineered the civil service machine in Scotland to match.

Salmond had made it clear to Elvidge in the meetings they had before the election that he wanted to cut back the size of the government in Scotland, which he believed had become too big.

The nine Executive departments, which each had their own ministers, have gone - to be replaced by what civil service insiders say is a "more sophisticated" structure.

Five new ministers, with the titles of Cabinet Secretary, will have responsibility for: health and well-being; education and lifelong learning; justice; finance and sustainable growth; and rural affairs and the environment.

The five Cabinet Secretaries will have five Directors-General reporting to them, each of whom will have responsibility for one of five key strategic policy objectives set out by the new government focused on creating "a greener, healthier, safer, smarter and more prosperous Scotland", according to Elvidge.

The director-general (DG) for the economy will be Dr Andrew Goudie. The DG for health, and the chief executive of NHSScotland, is Kevin Woods. Philip Rycroft takes on the DG role in education, with environment headed by Richard Wakeford. Justice and communities will be the domain of Robert Gordon.

According to the Executive, these five will have a series of directors below them, each responsible for what used to be called groups in the civil service, working on individual topics.

For example, Goudie will have seven directors under him responsible for: Europe, external affairs and culture; finance; the inquiry reporters; planning; public service reform; Scottish Development International; and transport.

The Executive hopes that by breaking down what are commonly referred to as "silos" in the public service, and making each DG for specific areas of policy, they will ensure that there is more joined-up government in Scotland.

In a message to staff on Wednesday, Elvidge said: "The role of a director-general will differ a great deal from that of a head of department.

"They will work across ministerial portfolios, driving progress towards the government's strategic policy objectives, and provide top-level leadership of change in our organisation."

He added: "The First Minister has made it clear that his administration intends to proceed on the basis of consensus and building support for its plans, both in Parliament and more widely.

"He has also made it clear that he prizes what we can offer in support of that - professionalism, impartiality, pride in what we do and an ability to deal with complex and difficult issues.

"These changes to our structures and ways of working will allow us to live up to those expectations and, I don't doubt, to exceed them. By making the directorate or executive agency the centrepiece of our new structures, we make it easier for people to see the Scottish government as a single, coherent unit, rather than a group of departments with separate identities. Each of us works for the Executive, in a directorate or an agency, the title of which should 'say what it does on the tin'."

Although there was a political imperative for the changes, Elvidge had also been looking at reshaping the civil service in Scotland in the wake of a critical review of the way the Executive worked.

The Taking Stock report in December found that the civil service in Scotland needed to urgently "increase the impact and effectiveness of leadership".

Although the inspectors ranked the Executive more highly than departments such as the Home Office south of the Border, they were highly critical of the senior management, led by Elvidge.

The review found that both Executive staff and the organisations they come into contact with felt "that the senior leadership team lacks passion, pace and drive and do not perceive them as the powerful and unified driving force".

Elvidge immediately acted to abolish the 14-strong management group that had been the Scottish civil service "board of directors" and replaced it with an eight-member strategic board. That board will now consist of Elvidge himself and the five directors- general.

The changes will affect most of the civil service. However, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service will continue to be a part of the Scottish Executive but, because of the need to maintain its independence as a prosecution service, it will not be directly affected by the changes.

The Executive is not year clear whether there will be many job losses as a result of the changes, but the reduction in departments has been made easier by the retirement of Nikki Munro, who was head of the now- defunct development department. Mike Ewart, who was the head of education, has left to run the Scottish Prison Service.

However, these changes to the civil service are only the start of a much wider shakeup of the structure of the Scottish civil service and other governance.

Speaking in the debate on the appointment of his ministerial team, in parliament yesterday, the First Minister said Scotland did not need the nine departments of the Executive, 27 executive agencies and the 152 quangos.

He added: "I am not sure we need that complexity for a nation of five million people. If you are going to have joined-up government you need less bits to join up."

Mr Salmond's words are likely to presage a major review of the many quangos that are the responsibility of the Executive.

The SNP has promised to abolish Communities Scotland, the housing and regeneration quango, and SportScotland, with some of their functions going to local government and the rest to the Executive itself.