Corporate Board minutes: March 2021

Minutes from the Corporate Board (formerly the Executive Board) meeting on 2 March 2021, chaired by the Permanent Secretary.

Attendees and apologies


  • Leslie Evans (Chair), Permanent Secretary
  • Liz Ditchburn, DG Economy
  • Lesley Fraser, DG Organisational Development and Operations
  • Joe Griffin, Incoming DG Education and Justice
  • Ronnie Hinds, Non-Executive Director 
  • Julie Humphreys, Interim Director, Communications, Ministerial Support and Workplace
  • Paul Johnston, DG Education, Communities and Justice 
  • Caroline Lamb, DG Health and Social Care
  • Ruaraidh Macniven, Solicitor to the Scottish Government
  • Madhu Malhotra, Director for Equality, Inclusion and Human Rights
  • Jackie McAllister, Chief Financial Officer
  • Hugh McKay, Non-Executive Director
  • Linda McKay, Non-Executive Director
  • Nicky Richards, Director, People
  • 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
  • Claire Hughes, Finance Business Partner
  • Dougie McLaren, Deputy Director, Public Spending


  • Pamela Beer, ET Secretariat
  • Emma Sinclair, ET Secretariat
  • Becky Robb, ET Secretariat


  • Annie Gunner Logan, Non-Executive Director 

Items and actions

Welcome, introductions, apologies, declarations of interest, minutes 

The Chair welcomed everyone to the first Corporate Board (“the Board”) meeting of 2021, in particular Joe Griffin, Caroline Lamb, Madhu Malhotra and Claire Tynte-Irvine. Apologies were noted from Annie Gunner Logan. There were no declarations of interest.

The Board agreed the minutes of the meeting on 1 December 2020 and noted the Action Tracker.  

Permanent Secretary overview

The Chair provided an overview of events since the last Board meeting in December 2020, noting:   

  • the unprecedented challenges the Scottish Government (SG) has faced over the period and the exceptional response provided by all SG colleagues, delivering business as usual as well as, for example, setting up and delivering a vaccination programme; revising the Covid-19 Strategic Framework and preparing for the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May
  • the resulting impacts on resilience, compounded by the personal challenges created by Covid-19 and the importance of wellbeing and clear leadership
  • the importance of the Civil Service code and demonstrating SG’s values in volatile and challenging circumstances
  • work continues on supporting Scotland’s recovery and renewal which will underpin advice to an incoming administration in May alongside work on the next stage of SG’s organisational strategy 
  • work continues to support the Parliamentary Inquiry on the SG’s Handling of Harassment Complaints

Balanced scorecard     

The Board received an overview of information on SG’s organisational health, governance and delivery performance over the period, noting:

  • the continued impact of Covid-19 on staff capacity; wellbeing and ways of working
  • a shift in the make-up of the workforce, with an increase in temporary staff
  • the positive People Survey results for 2020 with the highest engagement scores to date, with a recognition of the diversity of experience across the workforce and the importance of local action
  • progress is being made in consolidating the approach to risk management across DG families and corporately
  • the impact of Covid-19 on SG’s Programme for Government (PfG) commitments, including those most at risk and the publication of Scotland’s Wellbeing: The Impact of Covid-19 which evidences the significant negative impact of the Covid-19 on existing inequalities and Scotland’s National Outcomes

In discussion, the Board noted:

  • the improved quality of the data and maturity in the overall approach reflected in the Scorecard which is informing decisions on prioritisation; risk management and business planning
  • the demonstrable ongoing capacity and staff wellbeing-related challenges. Assurance is required that action is being taken to address these given that SG will have to continue to manage significant risks and issues, often concurrently
  • the challenges of remobilising the NHS, delivering on Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets and SG’s commitment to reducing child poverty and the actions in train to mitigate risks and improve performance
  • the benefits of the Renew Programme in bringing together the information required to enable ET and Ministers in an incoming administration to take the most impactful strategic choices 
  • the importance of prioritisation, recognising the data on staff wellbeing and scale of delivery challenge

The Board agreed:

  • assurances should be provided to the Board at its next meeting in June on the work underway to address continuing workforce challenges and risks
  • there should be clear read-across between risk information on performance against deliverables with that in the Corporate Risk Register and DGs should ensure that information on monitoring and evaluation (M and E) within scorecards is strengthened over time
  • that DGs should ensure that information on M andE within scorecards is improved over time and that information on equalities impacts of commitments should include socioeconomic impacts as appropriate
  • DG-level assurance mechanisms should ensure actions are taken in relation to portfolio risks and issues reflected in the data

Financial stewardship 

The Board received an overview of SG’s current budget position and the 2021/22 budget ahead of the UK Government’s (UKG) Budget on 3 March and the Scottish Parliament’s consideration of the Scottish Budget on 9 March.

In discussion the Board noted:

  • since its last meeting in December, SG’s financial position has moved to one of underspend as a result of robust financial management and scrutiny
  • careful management of the position continues to be required, to ensure the Scotland Reserve cap limit is not breached, whilst ensuring SG is able to support the 2021/22 position
  • the recent additional £1.1bn in funding for 2020/21 confirmed by the UKG is being carried forward in full to 2021/22 outside the Reserve (as agreed with HM Treasury)
  • the UKG’s Budget will provide some clarity in relation to any additional funding available for the forthcoming Budget for 2021/22 and Ministers will then return to negotiations with opposition parties to shape the final content of the Budget for Parliamentary approval
  • any decision taken to extend support for businesses affected by Covid-19 will have significant additional financial consequences
  • decisions on the allocation of additional financial support from the UKG must continue to be based on Accountable Officer (AO) assessment of value for money towards the delivery of Scotland’s National Outcomes
  • the importance of taking a cross-government approach to deploying spend to achieve outcomes and the cultural change that this will require. Annual and portfolio-based budgeting will continue but there is an opportunity in preparing for an incoming administration to map out how this can be achieved in the wider context of supporting Scotland’s recovery and renewal
  • medium and long term fiscal planning and sustainability remains a key collective risk. A number of mitigating actions were in train, including proposals to improve SG’s overall financial management and planning capabilities at portfolio and corporate level, as well as preparations for a multi-year Spending Review

Arrangements to support the next administration

The Board received an overview of preparations for a new administration to ensure appropriate engagement, transition and induction as well as to ensure SG’s structures and processes were fully configured to support the priorities of a new administration, including business planning, return to the workplace and SG’s own organisational development. 

In discussion the Board noted and agreed as appropriate:

  • the shifts in ways of working ahead were potentially significant and regular engagement with the Council of Scottish Government Unions (CSGU) was underway on what this could mean for staff
  • ET was already assessing SG’s performance against existing commitments as well as financial and staffing risks. Preparatory work to be ready to support the incoming government to consider options and choices, within financial and capacity constraints was important
  • given the challenging delivery context for SG and public sector partners, it would be important to focus on those interventions and policies which will make the biggest impact
  • the opportunity of the SG Spending Review in supporting re-prioritisation and a refresh in approach and the need for robust baseline business plans from which changes and adjustments could be made
  • the need to take a cross-government approach, particularly post-election and the potential value of a cross-cutting structure to deliver  resilience and support prioritisation
  • a programme or portfolio discipline had potential benefits for delivering, outcomes; assessing Value for Money and supporting collective decision-making, within a shared narrative
  • this could represent a significant shift in approach, which would need to be carefully approached and piloted so as not to be overly complex
  • there was valuable experience from previous cross-government collaboration and programme management, ranging from the legislative programme through constitutional change; EU Exit; child poverty; Climate Change; drugs deaths and Covid-19 
  • in moving forwards, it was important to maintain our openness to external advice and challenge, international perspectives, partnership working and the key value of evidence

The Board asked the Director for Performance and Strategic Outcomes to consider a proportionate means of strengthening the collective approach to identifying and resourcing cross-government priorities, with a focus on progressing key National Performance Framework outcomes for the incoming administration. 

Next meeting – Tuesday 1st June 2021


0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top