Corporate Board minutes: June 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the board on 20 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies



  • John-Paul Marks(Chair), Permanent Secretary
  • Roy Brannen, DG Net Zero
  • Lesley Fraser, DG Corporate 
  • Joe Griffin, DG Education and Justice 
  • Aidan Grisewood, Interim Director, Economic Strategy (for Gregor Irwin)
  • Louise Macdonald, DG Communities
  • David Martin, Non-Executive Director
  • Richard McCallum, Director of Health Finance and Governance (for Caroline Lamb)
  • Belinda Oldfield, Non-Executive Director
  • Shirley Rogers, Director of Performance, Delivery and Resilience (for Ken Thomson)
  • Alyson Stafford, DG Scottish Exchequer

In attendance


  • Andrew Bruce, Director of Communications and Ministerial Support
  • Christopher Crowther, Strategic Design Authority (SDA) Co-ordinator (item 3)
  • Jonathon Curry, Deputy Director, People Strategy (for Nicola Richards)
  • Caroline Dodds, Team Leader, National Performance Framework Unit (item 5)
  • Andrew Drought, Deputy Director, Organisational Change and Performance (item 3)
  • Stephanie Gray, Head of Fiscal Sustainability Unit (item 3)
  • Claire Hughes, Head of Fiscal in-year Management (item 3)
  • Judith MacKinnon, Head of People Advice (item 3)
  • Angus MacLeod, Deputy Director, Public Service Reform (item 4)
  • Mary McAllan, Director of Covid Recovery and Public Service Reform (item 4)
  • Jackie McAllister, Chief Financial Officer
  • David Milne, Team Leader - Public Service Reform and Community Planning (item 4)
  • Kevin Rae, Head of Organisational Change policy (item 3)
  • Barry Stalker, Head of National Performance Framework Unit (item 5)
  • Kirsty Walker, Interim Board Secretary and Deputy Director, ETSGO
  • Robyn Whitelaw-Grant, Head of Governance and Risk (item 2)
  • Kirsty Whyte, Team Leader Fiscal Sustainability Unit (item 3)



  • Stuart MacArthur, ETSGO
  • Owen McMahon, ETSGO
  • Lesley Patrick, ETSGO



  • Gregor Irwin, DG Economy
  • Caroline Lamb, DG Health and Social Care
  • Ruaraidh MacNiven, Solicitor to the Scottish Government and Director of SGLD
  • Nicola Richards, Director, People
  • Jim Robertson, Non-Executive Director and Chair, SGAAC
  • Jayne Scott, Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair, SGAAC
  • Ken Thomson, DG Strategy and External Affairs

Items and actions

Welcome and introductions

The Chair welcomed members and attendees. Apologies were noted as above. There were no declarations of interest. 
The Chair congratulated Roy Brannen, DG Net Zero, on his recently announced CBE in the King’s Birthday Honours.
The Board agreed the minutes of the meeting on 21 March 2023. The Board Secretary provided an overview of ongoing actions and the progress made against each, noting 170 can be marked complete with development of Corporate Board forward plan and 181 superseded.

Risk overview

David Martin (NXD) provided an overview of key areas of focus at the last SGAAC meeting on 5 June 2023, including the Deposit Return Scheme and Freedom of Information risks, the volume of target dates approaching in the coming quarter, and the inter-relation between Health and Social Care financial sustainability risk and the overall financial sustainability risk. It was also noted the benefits of Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) alignment and more dynamic reporting. 
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • Deposit Return Scheme was an example of where risk had crystalised as an issue
  • Fiscal Sustainability Risk facing significant challenge to fully realise its target reduction, including ongoing unknown pressures from future pay deals, and ongoing elevated inflation rates amongst other impacts. Mitigation was focused on multiyear solutions, noting the impact of workforce and the proportion of public/private sector workers at a national comparator
  • Health and Social Care noted as a significant factor in overall sustainability, given the portfolio size
  • target dates can refer to milestone moments, such as mitigation delivery, rather than the potential realisation of risks and ongoing explanation and innovation of mitigations should be considered to improve confidence levels
  • Covid Inquiry risk has been escalating, and consideration should be given to organisational impacts of this
  • freedom of information risk is improving with delivery on controls and outputs. Projected de-escalated position towards end Summer, with lessons learned from the handling of this long-term risk
  • a revised approach to DG Assurance process will be tested in DG Net Zero in the upcoming round

Organisational health


The Chief Financial Officer provided an update on the projected financial outturn for Financial Year (FY) 2022/23. It was noted that SG is forecast to achieve an overall balanced budget position, following intensive work in-year. In-year reporting will begin at end June, alongside any associated budget adjustments. The need for ongoing consideration and delivery of savings was highlighted, as were future uncertainties surrounding pay award.
Head of Fiscal Sustainability Unit provided an update on fiscal sustainability indicators, with a projected variance across the medium term, with significant challenge in 24/25. The publication of the Medium-Term Financial Strategy (MTFS) was a significant milestone originating from the Financial Sustainability Strategy. Three pillars to manage the variance in funding and spending were outlined: Spending choice; Tax choices; and Economic growth, with the Budget being the first milestones in delivery.
In discussion the Board noted:

  • data quality of financial reporting had and was continuing to improve with more developed and detailed analysis
  • the measures CFO and the finance team had put in place had created positive disruption in year, enabling the generation and delivery of savings. This effort and work were formally thanked and welcomed by the Chair
  • changes in control measures would need to be maintained throughout the year, noting ongoing pressures and the need for continued reinforcement
  • potential wellbeing impact on colleagues from continued tighter controls and reinforcements, noting the need for consistent communication on the ongoing need for sustainability
  • budget process work due to begin earlier than previous years, as sanctioned by Cabinet, which will assist integration of previous Budget lessons
  • the need to keep financial planning linked into the policy and Programme for Government requirements to ensure appropriate alignment and prioritisation

People – Annual Working Days Lost

Deputy Director, People Strategy and Deputy Director, Head of People Advice provided an update on the work to examine the Annual Working Days Lost (AWDL) across the organisation, as part of wider work on people risk management and people metrics. The importance of early intervention in dealing with absences was highlighted, along with the role of line managers in facilitating a return to work. The upcoming introduction of Oracle cloud software will include easy access to live absence data, which will allow more rapid line manager action.
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • the importance of examining the data holistically, using the data to benefit wellbeing, productivity and alignment priorities in a way that is relevant to the DG area
  • the strategic opportunities presented by the new Enterprise, Resource, and Planning (ERP) Application to look at the data in terms of triggers and support opportunities, in order to use the data to build a wellbeing-confident organisation across a longer term rather than aim purely to reduce AWDL
  • the benefits of a more pastoral approach, emphasising the importance of line managers making contact early to encourage a return to work
  • the importance of capturing where absences are due to work-related stress and the organisations obligations to remove barriers to return, as well as adjustments to aid with non-work-related mental health issues

Strategic Design Authority

Strategic Design Authority (SDA) Co-ordinator provided an update on the ongoing work of SDA, the delivery and upcoming test of the Design Principles as an initial product, as well as the ongoing development of Target Operating Model (TOM) and the Proposition for Good Government. Updates to the Terms of Reference were also flagged.
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • the scale of the requirement for a Target Operating Model (TOM) is large, with the organisation already delivering significant changes across its structures including: SG Major Projects authority and PPM profession; Investment and Infrastructure; Strategy and transformation such as Health recovery; new SG capabilities such as Scotwind, Social Care improvement etc; and SG services such as skills, estates, digital, digital and data
  • consideration should be given to strategic, long term needs as well as flexibility to respond to new demands that may arise
  • design Principles felt appropriate to be tested with the organisation, noting the initial focus on the Corporate Centre. It was noted there remained scope to amend as ongoing process
  • designing the ability to decommission activity could be considered for inclusion
  • inclusive language will support delivery of the communications strategy, noting the complex and technical aspects of the programme but delivering them in a digestible format that can be used for application
  • the significant work undertaken by the team on the initial Design Principles product and the development of the forward plan for delivery
  • consideration should be given to how to demonstrate stretch into 2030, and how this could be evidenced with future products
  • consideration of how to link to existing Organisational Strategies and missions (PfG, NPF,etc) should be given to ensure strategic alignment

Public Service Reform

Director of Covid Recovery and Public Service Reform (PSR) provided an update on work underway on PSR, noting the core objectives of the programme and highlighting the importance of alignment with policy-based work, ensuring an outcomes-focused approach. Progress in the quarter includes finalisation of the baselining exercise with public bodies as well as improved engagement with Chairs and Chief Executives, to encourage alignment of public bodies to a common agenda. Moving forward, increased engagement with Scottish Exchequer will support a later DG led commission to public bodies and the impact of the longer-term financial estimates.
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • the importance effectively communicating to public bodies the scale of the fiscal challenge to be managed
  • the importance of ensuring we have sufficient capability to meet the substantial targets
  • the potential for DGs to attend the steering group meetings, to discuss their portfolio’s reform programmes
  • the consideration of the viability of a Transformation Fund to support investment in reforms which generate net savings or strengthen sustainability
  • the benefits delivered through workforce planning supported by the close working of DG Communities and DG SE could be modelled for further benefits
  • the importance of having realistic aims, and of grounding the targets within the budget strategy
  • the significant spend on Digital, and the potential benefits that could be delivered through a streamlined approach
  • the scale of the challenge in some areas, acknowledging that some DG families have a considerable number of public bodies
  • the importance of developing the sponsorship network, to ensure Director sponsors have the tools they require available
  • the work underway in the coming months to ensure the organisation’s multi-year budget approach is fair and consistent
  • the draft action from the previous SGAAC meeting, for DG Communities and DG Scottish Exchequer to coordinate an item on Public Service Reform to be included in the September SGAAC Agenda, incorporating assurance on the pace and scale of progress

National Performance Framework

Head of National Performance Framework Unit and Team Leader, National Performance Framework Unit provided an update on the analysis of the now completed public engagement. The stages of the activity plan leading to publication of the revised NPF in Summer 2024 and the wider policy agenda was also highlighted. 
In discussion the Board noted:

  • the engagement provided scaled back though adequate responses, noting that the greatest impact was seen in individual responses, with good numbers of stakeholder responses being received
  • some responses such as Carnegie also included consultation and wider data gathering prior to submission of responses
  • expert advisory group made up of key stakeholders is meeting throughout Review process
  • consideration of the communication strategy of the process to address any concerns on the slimmed down approach, noting that Ministers have changed since engagement plan was agreed
  • further engagement with COSLA will be beneficial in supporting the delivery of the implementation plan

Any other business

The Chair acknowledged that this was the final Corporate Board meeting for Director of Performance, Delivery and Resilience, Shirley Rogers, and thanked her for her contributions to the Board and to the organisation.
The next Board date was confirmed as 26 September 2023.


Corporate Board minutes


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