School inspectors' HQ to move west

SCOTLAND’S education inspectors are to be relocated from Edinburgh to Livingston, bringing at least 60 new jobs to West Lothian.

Education Minister Peter Peacock announced the headquarters of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Education will transfer out of the Capital next year.

The move was warmly welcomed by West Lothian leaders today.

Council leader Graeme Morrice said: "These are exactly the types of jobs that we want to attract to West Lothian.

"It’s great news that the benefits of locating here - affordable quality office and factory accommodation, a young and highly qualified workforce, and easy access to the rest of Scotland - are now being recognised."

HMIE currently has its headquarters in Saughton House, and also has a city office at Victoria Quay.

The HQ is being moved under the Executive’s policy of dispersing public sector jobs.

It comes after ministers controversially decided to move the headquarters of Scottish Natural Heritage from Edinburgh to Inverness.

The Scottish Executive has defied a wave of opposition over the move by telling 245 SNH workers they will have to transfer to the Highlands or lose their jobs. Just 25 permanent jobs will remain in Edinburgh.

And last month it was revealed that VisitScotland was considering moving its headquarters out of the Capital in a move that would affect 115 staff.

New HMIE offices are also to be opened in Dunbartonshire and Ayrshire, and the inspectorate’s Dundee office will be relocated to larger premises in the city.

HMIE will continue to have staff based in its existing offices in Aberdeen, Glasgow and Inverness.

The relocation is expected to improve the education inspection system and will transfer approximately 100 jobs to areas hit by recent job losses.

Mr Peacock said: "HMIE plays a vital role in our education improvement agenda and it is important that inspectors are as close as possible to the schools, colleges and education authorities they inspect.

"This move will allow the inspectorate to further modernise its service and meet the challenging targets set by ministers.

"The new offices being set up in Livingston, Dunbartonshire and Ayrshire will transfer approximately 100 much-needed jobs to these areas.

"Many staff will remain in their jobs with HMIE to work from the new offices. However, there will also be a number of job opportunities for local people as it is anticipated that some existing members of staff may choose not to remain with HMIE after the relocation.

"Those who choose not to stay with HMIE will not face redundancy - they will be eligible for other posts in the Scottish Executive.

"This is an excellent relocation initiative which meets our objectives of organisational efficiency and jobs dispersal."

Graham Donaldson, head of HMIE, welcomed the decision.

"It provides further support for our work in improving Scottish education by ensuring that our staff have suitable bases in key locations throughout the country.

"Our task now is to introduce the new arrangements as smoothly and sensitively as possible."

Councillor Willie Dunn, convener of the West Lothian Council’s enterprise and development committee, said he was "absolutely delighted" to hear the jobs were coming to Livingston.

"Our economic strategy is to attract these types of quality government jobs to the area. We hope that other government agencies will also consider West Lothian as a desirable place to relocate."