Corporate Board minutes: December 2020

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

Attendees and apologies


  • Leslie Evans (Chair), Permanent Secretary
  • Lesley Fraser, Interim DG Organisational Development and Operations
  • Annie Gunner Logan, Non-Executive Director 
  • Ronnie Hinds, Non-Executive Director 
  • Julie Humphreys, Interim Director Communications, Ministerial Support and Workplace
  • Paul Johnston, DG Education, Communities and Justice
  • Jackie McAllister, Chief Financial Officer
  • Hugh McKay, Non-Executive Director
  • Linda McKay, Non-Executive Director
  • Elinor Mitchell, Interim DG Health and Social Care
  • Alyson Stafford, DG Scottish Exchequer
  • Ken Thomson, DG Constitution and External Affairs
  • Katrina Williams, DG External Affairs

In attendance: 

  • Jennie Barugh, Director, Performance and Strategic Outcomes 
  • Luke Cavanagh, Unit Head, Corporate Analytical Services
  • Gary Gillespie, Chief Economist 
  • Andrew Scott, Director, Sustainable Land Use and Rural Policy (for DG Economy) 
  • Andrew Watson, Director, Budget and Public Spending 
  • Robyn Whitelaw-Grant, Head, Governance and Risk 
  • Aileen Wright, Deputy Director, Corporate Reporting, Accountancy and Governance  


  • Pamela Beer, ET Secretariat
  • Myra Binnie, ET Secretariat
  • Becky Robb, ET Secretariat


  • Liz Ditchburn, DG Economy
  • Ruaraidh Macniven, Solicitor to the Scottish Government
  • Nicky Richards, Director, People

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions, apologies, declarations of interest, minutes 

The Chair welcomed everyone to the fourth Corporate Board (“the Board”) meeting of 2020, in particular Jackie McAllister, Chief Financial Officer and Katrina Williams, DG External Affairs. Apologies were noted from Liz Ditchburn, Ruaraidh Macniven and Nicky Richards. There were no declarations of interest.

The Board agreed the minutes of the CB meeting on 1 September 2020 and noted the action tracker.  

Permanent Secretary overview

The Chair provided an overview of events since the last Board meeting in June noting:   

  • the Scottish Government (SG) was now 21 years old and it was maturing as devolved competence increased
  • the crystallisation of SG’s concurrent risks and issues in recent months, including the ongoing response to Covid-19; preparations for the outcome of EU Exit and Winter Planning
  • work continued to support the Parliamentary Inquiry on SG Handling of Harassment Complaints; SG’s progress towards meeting its Climate Change targets and preparations for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May 2021
  • the continued personal and professional commitment of SG staff
  • the quality and nature of partnership working with local government, the third sector and businesses in supporting Scotland’s response to Covid-19 and EU Exit and the shared focus on the National Performance Framework (NPF) and
  • the need for ongoing prioritisation. Resourcing, wellbeing and financial stewardship would continue to be key areas of focus for Executive Team (ET) and were reflected in the Board’s agenda for today

Balanced scorecard     

DG Organisational Development and Operations (ODO) and DG Scottish Exchequer (SE) provided overviews of organisational health and performance over the period, noting:

  • Covid-19’s continued impact on staff capacity and capability; roles; ways of working and wellbeing
  • the considerable levels of recruitment underway
  • Freedom of Information performance remained below target but had improved
  • additional information had been reflected on Corporate Risk and 
  • ajoint SG-COSLA analytical report on the impact of Covid-19 on our National Outcomes would be published by the end of December drawing together evidence of impact across all national outcomes and providing analysis in the round

In discussion, the Board noted:

  • the quality of the data to support ongoing discussions and decisions on prioritisation; informing SG’s approach to wellbeing and to recovery and renewal
  • the ongoing achievements and delivery of staff in the most challenging of circumstances
  • that it was critical to ensure the balance between delivering competent government and public services delivering Accountable Officer (AO) duties and maintaining a duty of care to staff. Continuous re-prioritisation would be required and AOs have a leading role to play in supporting those discussions with portfolio Ministers in a consistent and collective way
  • noted the responses to the People Survey and BUD1 exercise will provide quantitative evidence which will support decisions on prioritisation, sustainability and the wellbeing offer to staff
  • the focus for SG on collective leadership alongside corporate transformation, well-functioning corporate services and a strong digital offer and
  • the pace of public sector reform delivered during the response to Covid-19 had been considerable and this provided considerable impetus for recovery and renewal within SG as well as strategic public sector reform ten years on from the Christie Commission’s recommendations

The Board agreed:

  • there is an opportunity to review the AO responsibilities and Certificates of Assurance process to ensure duty of care is explicitly represented
  • a clear narrative setting out the routemap for Organisational Development and Transformation should be developed which would draw on the Covid-19 response to date
  • to discuss Public Service Reform at a future meeting and
  • DG SE to provide an update to Annie Gunner-Logan on the Renew Programme

Covid-19 update and economy deep dive

DG Constitution and External Affairs (CEA) provided an update on SG’s work on Covid-19, followed by a deep dive on the Scottish economy led by the Chief Economist and Director, Sustainable Land Use and Rural Policy.

In discussion, the Board noted:

  • the latest SG Covid-19 and Winter Readiness update and the associated work on organisational readiness
  • measures in train to further protect the wellbeing and resilience of teams working on these issues, and to align resources to workload
  • the volatility of Scotland’s labour market poses both short and medium term risk
  • real-time economic data and analysis has supported decision-making in relation to Scotland’s Covid-19 Strategic Framework and the nature of support measures in place
  • the overall resilience of the Scottish economy is a reflection of the unprecedented levels of financial support from the UK Government (UKG) as well as SG, though some sectors are particularly impacted such as hospitality and retail. The true scale of Covid-19’s impact may be masked by the support measures
  • over time, it was anticipated that the impact on other sectors of the economy may be compounded as the impact of the end of the EU Exit transition period given the dependency on future trading arrangements and market stability and
  • the roll out of vaccinations will be critical to the scale and pace of economic recovery

Financial stewardship

The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and the Director of Budget and Public Spending provided an overview of SG’s current budget position and on the 2021/22 budget, including an update on the implications of the UKG’s Spending Review on 25 November 2020. The Board thanked Kerry Twyman, Interim CFO and teams in Financial Management and Scottish Exchequer for their work on Financial Governance and budget management.

In discussion, the Board noted:

  • ongoing milestones for 2020/21 budget management were being met but the position remained challenging with further Covid-19 cost pressures and EU Exit costs anticipated
  • robust financial management and continued compliance with financial governance processes, including AO templates, was essential
  • discussions with HM Treasury on the detail of Covid-19 consequentials and the wider Spending Review were ongoing to ensure greater clarity and certainty for the SG Budget
  • engagement was taking place with Ministers as part of the 2021/22 Budget preparations and
  • fiscal sustainability remained a key collective risk for all parts of SG and had been discussed with Non-Executive Directors (NXDs); the Exchequer Board and at DG Scottish Exchequer’s Assurance meeting. A number of actions were in train to mitigate the risk, including proposals to improve SG’s overall financial management and planning capabilities and to drive work in partnership with portfolios to identify options to reduce costs and increase efficiency and value for money

Annual accounts and Governance Statement

The CFO provided an overview of the SG Draft Annual Accounts for 2019/20 and the companion draft Governance Statement, both of which were to be considered by the Scottish Government Audit and Assurance Committee (SGAAC) on 8 December ahead of being laid in the Scottish Parliament by 23 December 2020.

The CFO noted a divergence between Audit Scotland’s (AS) and SG’s interpretation of the accounting treatment in relation Covid-19 Business Support Grants issued by SG at the beginning of April 2020. Given the circumstances, and in order to facilitate AS to provide an unqualified opinion on the SG Accounts on both “true and fair” and regulatory grounds, the Board agreed that provision should be made in the Accounts for the Support Grants. Therefore it was agreed that the draft Accounts should be amended to reflect that. Members agreed that no other amendments were required. 

The Board considered the draft Governance Statement which had been developed from the DG Certificates of Assurance and reflected developments since the end of the reporting period. The Board confirmed no specific amends were required, but the Board invited CFO to consider whether additional information should be provided on SG’s investments in private companies within the Accounts. The Board agreed that, subject to the CFO’s consideration, the draft Statement could proceed to SGAAC.            

Next meeting – Tuesday 2nd March 2021

ET Support and Governance Office
December 2020


0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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