Top civil servant Leslie Evans' refusal to give evidence to Scottish Parliament committee is out of order – Kenny MacAskill MP

Imagine a police officer due to retire at the end of the month and either on light duties or even on leave getting a citation for court and then saying: “Ach Sergeant, I can’t be bothered.”

Leslie Evans rejected an invitation to give evidence about her time as Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee (Russell Cheyne/PA)
Leslie Evans rejected an invitation to give evidence about her time as Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Parliament’s finance committee (Russell Cheyne/PA)

Eh no! Not only would the court expect him to obtemper the order, but his senior officers would tell him disciplinary action would follow and fast if he didn’t show up for it.

It wouldn’t only apply to a witness citation but to other requests that were viewed as part of his duties or even just to orders to cover incidents. That isn’t restricted to those in a uniformed organisation.

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If you’re on the payroll and fit for duties, then whilst efforts will be made to ensure a quiet retiral, core activities will still be expected whoever you work for.

That’s why the refusal by Leslie Evans, the outgoing Permanent Secretary, to attend a Holyrood committee is not just inexplicable but entirely unacceptable. It’s inconceivable that a lower grade civil servant would be cut such slack. They, as with the police officer, would be told to go or be hauled up before line managers or even more senior beaks.

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Evans held Scotland’s most senior civil service position and her overview and reflections will be important – no doubt explaining why the committee wishes to hear from her.

It should be an opportunity for a debrief about what went right and what went wrong, what needs binned and what should be considered. Quite important, you might think? Something as helpful to do as sitting down with her successor to talk through the job, as she sees it.

But not for the Great Lady, she’s just going to lounge at home. Her tenure’s been far from illustrious, indeed more like lamentable. Running up legal bills and appearing more like a pantomime dame in the Salmond inquiry.

If the committee has a backbone, they’ll be upping the pressure and declaring it’s an order, not a polite request. This is disrespectful and entirely out of order. The civil service is better than this and thankfully it’s far better than her.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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