Ever-expanding public sector is too much to bear
The hysterical response from some of our MSPs to John Ward's shrewd observation that public sector dominance of economies in some parts of Scotland is approaching "Soviet levels" is alarming.
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, and the business community it represents, has nothing but admiration for public sector workers in the front line of education, health and emergency service provision. But when we hear that the number of civil servants in the Scottish Executive has increased by a third in the last five years, that the number dealing with the media has doubled and the cost of "special advisors" to ministers has increased by a third, we say enough's enough.
To be fair, ministers have acknowledged that the brakes need to be applied and have identified 1.2 billion worth of savings, of which up to a third would be "time released". What they have failed to do is identify when those savings might be applied. Moreover, the Executive's own spending watchdog, Audit Scotland, is on record as saying it is unconvinced by the arithmetic supporting the Executive's case.
It is time to challenge the civil servants in the "Management Group" to produce a meaningful programme and timetable for these savings. Otherwise, our brightest and best will find that opportunities to develop a career in business exist elsewhere.
Deputy chief executive
Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce
With so much attention being paid to Scotland's high dependence on state spending, I decided to conduct a little survey of my own using the recruitment section of last Friday's issue of The Scotsman. As far as I could tell, you were advertising 62 private sector vacancies, 25 with "charities" and 102 in the public sector. Sometimes it is not completely clear exactly how many jobs are on offer by each organisation, but I think that my analysis is pretty accurate.
I know that many if not most of the "charities" are predominantly financed by the taxpayer, and should probably be included with other public sector jobs. Even if we discount that, only 38 per cent of the advertised jobs are with private companies.
We should also note that about half of the private sector opportunities are in low-paying roles like bar work, catering, cleaning and hair styling. No doubt the government jobs come complete with guaranteed, inflation-linked pensions and their advertisements often state working hours down to the nearest 30 minutes.
So while 39 per cent of Lothian's current economic activity is reported as being in the state sector, only 38 per cent of the jobs being advertised in the region's main newspaper are not with the government.
I am forced to conclude that the outlook is bleak. Clearly, this can't continue. The only question is whether a future government will cut off funding before an economic collapse sets in.