New permanent secretary to replace embattled Leslie Evans announced

The replacement for the embattled permanent secretary, Leslie Evans, has been announced by the UK and Scottish Government.

John-Paul Marks will take up the post on January 5, 2022, with Ms Evans leaving her role on New Year’s Eve.

The civil servant – who will head up the Scottish Government’s civil service operation and is the most senior civil servant in Scotland – has previously worked for the Department of Work and Pensions.

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He will replace Ms Evans whose departure from the role follows a tumultuous year where she found herself at the centre of the controversy around the inquiry into the handling of harassment complaints against Alex Salmond.

The new permanent secretary to the Scottish Government will be John-Paul Marks.

The former first minister criticised Ms Evans and threatened renewed legal action against her for her role in the investigation into harassment allegations against him.

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Ms Evans was also criticised by the Holyrood inquiry into the investigation and resulting judicial review which cost the taxpayer more than £500,000 in expenses.

Her contract was extended in early 2020 between the dates of the judicial review and Mr Salmond’s trial, and recruitment started for her replacement in June.

Mr Marks will move from his position as director general for work and health services at the DWP, which he has held since 2019.

He has extensive experience within the department which is in charge of the UK’s social security and benefits operation, including as operations director for the universal credit programme.

The civil servant has also worked within the UK Pensions Regulator.

Among his duties will be overseeing the further roll-out of Scotland’s social security powers which were devolved to Holyrood following the Smith Commission after the 2014 independence referendum.

He said: “I am delighted to take up the role of Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government. I am grateful to the First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for this exciting opportunity.

"I would like to thank all the teams at the Department for Work & Pensions for their support and public service over the years. I look forward to joining the team in Scotland in the New Year as we do our very best for Scotland in these important years ahead.”

Reacting, Nicola Sturgeon said she was “grateful” for Leslie Evans’ service for the past seven years.

The First Minister added: “The expertise and insight that Leslie has applied in leading the organisation through the notable and significant challenges of our day – such as EU Exit and the COVID-19 pandemic – has been admirable.

"I join with so many across the Scottish public sector and beyond in wishing Leslie every success for the chapter ahead.

“I am delighted to agree the appointment of John Paul Marks as Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government. John Paul brings a wealth of experience to this senior leadership role from his career in the civil service working across a range of policy and delivery priorities.

"I look forward to working with him over the years ahead as we recover from COVID-19 and deliver on the government’s ambition to build a fairer, greener Scotland.”

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