MINUTES OF MEETING HELD IN ST ANDREW'S HOUSE, EDINBURGH
AT 8.30AM ON THURSDAY, 7 JULY 2005
Director of Change and Corporate Services
Head of Education Department
Eddie Frizzell CB
Head of Enterprise, Transport and Lifelong Learning Department
Robert Gordon CB
Head of Justice Department and Head of Legal and Parliamentary Services
Head of Finance and Central Services Department
Norman McFadyen CBE
Crown Agent and Chief Executive of the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
Head of Development Department
Head of Environment and Rural Affairs Department
Director of Service Policy And Planning, Health Department
Cabinet/MG Secretariat (For Agenda Items 1-5 only)
Cabinet/MG Secretariat (For Agenda Items 6-8 only)
Professional Skills for Government Adviser (For Agenda Item 5 only)
Head of FOI Unit (For Agenda Item 6 only)
Agenda Item 1: Minutes of Previous Meeting and Matters Arising
1. The minutes of the meeting held on 30 June (MG(05)25th Conclusions) were approved.
Agenda Item 2: Current Issues
2. The First Minister had requested detailed factual briefing on all aspects of the G8 summit, such as details of the number of police involved, for the post-summit press conference. Departmental Secretariats should liaise with Lucy Colquhoun (Civil Contingencies Division) who would be coordinating the briefing, and provide material in the form requested by the First Minister's office.
3. Mr Robert Gordon commented that the extensive preparation in advance of the G8 summit had proved to be valuable. There had been very good communication between the police and other responders, and the necessary operational decisions had been taken to achieve a good balance between allowing responsible protest but responding robustly to law-breaking. It would be important to build on the momentum generated by the summit and link this to other areas of the Executive's work, such as the sustainable development strategy. FCSD would coordinate lines to take for Ministers, highlighting the ways in which the G8 summit had been a success for Scotland.
Events Planning Grid
4. MG noted the Events Planning Grid, and agreed that further work was needed to identify events and announcements from 11 July and throughout the summer recess.
Agenda Item 3: Cabinet Business (Paper MG(05)73)
5. MG noted the Cabinet Business paper and the status of current and forthcoming Cabinet Correspondence.
Agenda Item 4: Finance Update (Oral Update)
6. Ms Stafford updated MG on progress in responding to the Minister for Finance's minute of 17 June requesting proposals to tighten up the financial management to minimise underspend in 2005-06. Finance teams for each portfolio were reviewing the causes of underspend in 2004-05, and this analysis would form the basis of a draft minute for the Permanent Secretary to send to Mr McCabe on behalf of MG (Action: Finance Director).
Agenda Item 5: Professional Skills for Government (Paper MG(05)74)
7. Ms Carruthers introduced the discussion, emphasising that Professional Skills for Government (PSG) was part of ongoing changes in the Civil Service, many of which had been reflected in the Executive's Changing to Deliver Programme. The emerging Council for Sector Skills for Governance, of which she was a member, had highlighted the importance of embedding leadership into the core skills set. It was important to ensure that the Executive's approach to implementing PSG was fit for purpose in the specific circumstances of devolution.[The Permanent Secretary and Ms Carruthers left the meeting and Ms Munro took the chair.]
8. Mr Preston then gave a presentation highlighting the extent to which the Executive had already integrated the PSG framework into existing performance management and career development tools. The presentation also highlighted the next steps and sought MG's views on the implementation and communication of the programme.
9. In discussion the following points were made:
(a) Clear communication with staff would be important. Key messages would be the consistency of PSG with existing systems and the principles of Changing to Deliver; clarity over the way in which PSG would be implemented within the Executive, highlighting simplicity and fitness for purpose; and the importance of taking pride in the professional skills of civil servants;
(b) In communicating the implications of PSG it would be important to take into consideration the needs of different audiences. The first phase of the implementation would primarily affect Senior Civil Service and Band C staff. However, it would also be important to ensure that other members of staff were kept informed, as PSG would have implications for their future careers;
(c) The most appropriate means of communication during the first phase would be for Heads of Department to meet with Division and Group Heads within their departments. It would be important to ensure genuine two way communication, with scope for making changes to the PSG implementation processes in response to staff comments;
(d) The emphasis on gaining broad experience of different career areas would lead to greater demand for interchange and secondment possibilities, and it would be important to give a realistic message about what people could expect in terms of opportunities for training and gaining external experience. There were a number of ways of gaining the necessary experience in addition to the traditional two year secondment, and these should be explored;
(e) The paper had highlighted some key risks, and it would be important to monitor these during implementation; and
(f) There was a need for clear guidance to ensure that the self assessment process was effective, meaningful and consistent. The importance of experience gained outwith the Scottish Executive should be recognised. Line managers would have a vital role in providing robust feedback and guidance to staff, but would need to be supported in doing so. The guidance provided to staff should include worked through examples to give an indication of the required level of experience and different career pathways. Line managers should give feedback to staff on their preferences for career anchors, taking into account individual aptitudes, experience and preferences, as well as the likely future demand for the different streams. Further consideration of the likely future needs of the organisation would be necessary to inform guidance to staff.
10. MG agreed that:
(a) A paper would be circulated to MG in correspondence providing more detail on the issues raised and inviting MG to sign off the proposals for wider communication within the organisation (Action: Mrs Carruthers, CCS);
(b) MG should be kept informed of progress in implementing PSG, and a further discussion should be scheduled in due course (Action: Mrs Carruthers, CCS; Cabinet Secretariat).
Agenda Item 6: FOI Update (Presentation MG(05)26th Conclusions)
11. Mr Ellis updated MG on handling of FOI cases since the previous month. Around 1200 cases had been received in total. A number of formal requests had been received about the handling of particular cases. The Scottish Information Commissioner had now made six decisions on cases that had been appealed, including one Scottish Executive case. The Commissioner had ruled in the Executive's favour. Key messages arising from the decisions were that it was important to ensure that an effective process, and audit trail, was in place from the start of a case; that internal reviews were also important; that there was value in using all appropriate exemptions in the first instance, in the interests of clarity for all parties; and that officials' names were generally releasable, unless it was considered that disclosure would place individuals at risk or prejudice the conduct of public affairs. Careful consideration was also being given to requests for officials' names that were written in vexatious language and, in some instances, to the implications of releasing personal data in the wider domain.
12. Mr Ellis said that there had been a number of requests for the release of officials' diaries. It would be helpful to make the FOI Unit aware of any such requests to help ensure that they were handled consistently. In general, diary information about internal events and prospective events was considered exempt, but there had been circumstances where it was considered appropriate to release retrospective diary information about external events;
13. MG noted the update on the handling of FOI cases within the Executive and agreed that the FOI Unit should prepare advice on the handling of potential future cases relating to the Spending Review.
Agenda Item 7: Report from CISG (Paper MG(05)75)
14. MG noted the report from the Corporate Issues Sub-group.
Agenda Item 8: Any Other Business
15. There was no other business.