Corporate Board minutes: December 2019

Minutes from the Corporate Board (formerly the Executive Board) meeting, chaired by the Permanent Secretary.

Attendees and apologies



  • Leslie Evans (Chair), Permanent Secretary
  • Barbara Allison, Director Communications, Ministerial Support and Facilities
  • Lesley Fraser, DG Organisational Development and Operations
  • Liz Ditchburn, DG Economy
  • Annie Gunner Logan, Non-Executive Director
  • Janet Hamblin, Non-Executive Director
  • Paul Johnston, DG Education, Communities and Justice
  • Ruaraidh Macniven, Solicitor to the Scottish Government  
  • Hugh McKay, Non-Executive Director
  • Linda McKay, Non-Executive Director
  • Alyson Stafford, DG Scottish Exchequer
  • Ken Thomson, DG Constitution and External Affairs  
  • Gordon Wales, Chief Financial Officer

In Attendance

  • Andrew Watson, Director of Budget and Sustainability  
  • Luke Cavanagh, Unit Head: Corporate Analytical Services
  • Jennie Barugh, Director of Performance and Strategic Outcomes  
  • Kathryn Fergusson, Head of National Performance Unit  
  • John Clements, National Performance Unit  
  • Jackie Wilkins, Head of Strategic Insights Unit  
  • Tim Ellis, Head Performance & Outcomes
  • Jonathon Curry, Deputy Director, Change and Operations  


  • Julie Humphreys, Board Secretary
  • Rebecca Robb, ET Secretariat  
  • Jo Ward, ET Secretariat


  • Ronnie Hinds, Non-Executive Director  
  • Nicky Richards, Director of People  
  • Malcolm Wright, DG Health and Social Care 

Items and actions

Item 1: Welcome, Introductions, Apologies, Declarations of Interest, Minutes and Action Tracker

1. The Chair welcomed everyone to the final Corporate Board (CB) meeting of 2019. Apologies were noted from Ronnie Hinds, Nicky Richards and Malcolm Wright. There were no declarations of interest.

2. The Board agreed the minutes of the CB meeting on 1 October 2019 and noted the updated Action Tracker.

Item 2: Permanent Secretary’s Overview

3. The Chair provided an overview of events in the last quarter, including:

  • Developments in relation to EU Exit and the forthcoming General Election;
  • The announcement that Glasgow will host the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) on Climate Change in 2020;
  • Confidence levels in the civil service are at a record level according to Ipsos Mori’s 2019 Veracity Index released last week;
  • The Scottish Government (SG) has been recognised in the Civil Service Awards and Public Service Scotland awards;
  • The success of the recent Scottish Leaders Forum and the importance of considering what role it can play going forward and
  • The success of the recent SG Disability Conference.

4. In discussion the Board agreed: 

  • Non-Executive Directors (NXDs) should be drawn on for support of the SG’s equality agenda and it would be included on a future NXD Network meeting agenda, supported by DG Education, Communities and Justice and
  • The second report of the First Minister’s National Advisory Council on Women and Girls will shared with Board members as well as SG’s response upon publication.

Item 3: Financial Stewardship

5. The Board was provided with an overview of SG’s financial position as at the end of October 2019 and an update on the Spending Review.

6. In discussion the Board noted for the in-year management of the 2019 – 20 Budget:

  •  Improvements in the resource position as a result of central adjustments and emerging clarity on demand-led budgets;
  • Work was ongoing to clarify the capital position;
  • Balance was likely to be achieved in relation to Financial Transactions by the end of the financial year and
  • Work was underway in relation to the Registers of Scotland reserve.

7. In discussion the Board noted the work on the future budget:

  • The uncertainty posed to the timing of SG’s Budget by the forthcoming UK General Election and subsequent timing of a UK Budget and that active monitoring of election spending plans was taking place;
  • The importance of communicating about the potential Budget settlement with external stakeholders;
  • That budget management should be seen through the lens of policy development as well as savings;
  • The value in the organisation having a consistent understanding of the balance between discretionary expenditure and fixed costs, and the relative impact that different budget choices would have on resource and capital targets and commitments and the importance of ET considering the overall position once proposals for future budgets have been drawn together and
  • An update on the Fiscal Framework would be provided in correspondence.

8. The Board agreed:

  • Accountable Officers should continue to ensure robust scrutiny and financial management individually and through DG Assurance meetings and provide individual and cross-cutting challenge to spend and savings proposals.

Item 4: Organisational Health

Balanced Scorecard

9. The Board was presented with the Balanced Scorecard which included a draft additional section on the National Performance Framework (NPF).

10. In discussion the Board noted that:

  • Recent workforce profiling has revealed optimism bias in the scale and pace of workforce growth in SG and that accurate workforce planning and management was important in supporting staff mental health and wellbeing;
  • In October 2019, SG surpassed the Freedom of Information (FoI) target response rate of 95%, answering 98% of cases on time;
  • The Scorecard will be shared with Directors and
  • A proposal setting out how the Scorecard could report on performance against the NPF and key SG deliverables has been provided for consideration.

11. In discussion the Board agreed:

  • A strategic approach to workforce planning was necessary and this should be considered by People Board in the first instance;
  •  The recent EU Exit resourcing mobilisation exercise demonstrated agility and there was an opportunity to reflect on lessons learned which should be considered by People Board;
  • That People Board should consider how benchmarking of performance of key “people” metrics could be considered in the Scorecard and
  • That questions in relation to the reporting of performance against the NPF and key SG deliverables should be circulated in correspondence, followed by bilaterals with Jennie Barugh and then considered by Performance Board.

Item 5: Organisational Health

Future Challenges

12. The Board considered the Executive Team’s (ET) priorities and objectives over the next 18 months in the context of EU Exit and constitutional change; corporate transformation and competent Government.

13. In discussion the Board noted:

  • That SG faces an unprecedented set of circumstances and challenges over the next 18 months ahead of Scottish Elections and into the sixth Parliamentary term which will need to be managed in the context of a tightening fiscal and financial position;
  •  The importance of clarifying the roles of ET, Directors and managers throughout SG during this unprecedented period and supporting staff through uncertainty and change and
  • Collective leadership and collaboration was required rather than hierarchy.

14. The Board agreed that ET should reflect upon the discussion and consider it further in the coming weeks with the aim of agreeing collective objectives.

Item 6: AOB

15. No other items of business were tabled.

Next Meeting – Tuesday 3 March

16. Provisional agenda items include: Permanent Secretary overview; Finance and Fiscal update; Balanced Scorecard and Climate Change.

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