Corporate Board minutes: September 2023

Minutes from the meeting of the board on 26 September 2023.

Attendees and apologies



  • John-Paul Marks(Chair), Permanent Secretary
  • Roy Brannen, DG Net Zero
  • Lesley Fraser, DG Corporate 
  • Gregor Irwin, DG Economy
  • Louise Macdonald, DG Communities
  • David Martin, Non-Executive Director
  • Lisa McGuinness, Director for Performance, Delivery and Resilience (for DG Strategy and External Affairs)
  • Belinda Oldfield, Non-Executive Director (from 14:30)
  • Neil Rennick, DG Education and Justice (until 16:10)
  • Jim Robertson, Non-Executive Director and Chair, SGAAC
  • Gillian Russell, Director for Health Workforce (for DG Health and Social Care)
  • Jayne Scott, Non-Executive Director and Deputy Chair, SGAAC
  • Alyson Stafford, DG Scottish Exchequer

In attendance


  • Jennie Barugh, Director of Fiscal Sustainability and Exchequer Development (until 16:05)
  • Elise Black, Deputy Director, Corporate Finance (item 3)
  • Andrew Bruce, Director of Communications and Ministerial Support
  • Alison Cumming, Director of Budget and Public Spending (until 15:10)
  • Angela Flynn, Head of Financial Management and Reporting (item 3)
  • Nuala Gormley, Deputy Director, Public Spending (item 6)
  • Stephanie Gray, Head of Fiscal Sustainability Unit (item 3)
  • Elizabeth Hill, HR Project Manager (item 5)
  • Claire Hughes, Head of Fiscal in-year Management (item 3)
  • Anna Kynaston, Interim PPS to Permanent Secretary
  • Iain MacNab, Head of Risk Management Policy (item 4-5)
  • Ruaraidh MacNiven, Solicitor to the Scottish Government and Director of SGLD
  • Mary McAllan, Director of Covid Recovery and Public Service Reform (item 6)
  • Jackie McAllister, Chief Financial Officer (until 16:00)
  • Kathryn Ray, Principal Research Officer (item 4)
  • Nicola Richards, Director, People
  • Marie Stevens, Principal Research Officer (item 4)
  • Claire Tynte-Irvine, Interim Director, Covid Inquiries Response Directorate (item 4)
  • Kirsty Walker, Interim Board Secretary and Deputy Director, ETSGO
  • Robyn Whitelaw-Grant, Head of Governance and Risk (item 4)
  • Kirsty Whyte, Team Leader Fiscal Sustainability Unit (item 3)


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


  • Caroline Lamb, DG Health and Social Care
  • Joe Griffin, 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 Board agreed the minutes from the last Corporate Board meeting on 20 June 2023. The Chair provided a brief overview of ongoing actions and the Board Secretary confirmed that three ongoing actions were now closed.
The Chair raised the issue of digital transformation, requesting a progress update from Director Digital at the next meeting.

SGAAC Chair update

Chair of SGAAC provided an overview of the last SGAAC meeting on 13 September 2023, principally focusing on fiscal sustainability, highlighting the financial position within the Health Portfolio. The Chair noted that SGAAC was not assured over the medium-term financial risk at this time.
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • there was significant strain on public sector finances across the piece, and the ongoing challenge from NXDs was welcomed
  • historically, the organisation has taken pragmatic steps to ensure the in-year ‘Path to Balance’ (PTB) was deliverable. However, the medium-term position has remained of significant concern
  • level of ambition for delivery remains high, but there are significant factors impacting on deliverability such as the recently materialised issue of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC), stubbornly high inflation and pay pressures
  • the importance of the leadership group in demonstrating adherence and enforcement of the Accountable Officer (AO) process and associated authority levels, recognising the need for collective leadership to change behaviours
  • the potential negative impact of taking opportunistic savings - rather than strategic choice savings –could be mitigated through ensuring the appropriate processes and organisational behaviours are in place. Any areas of perceived shortfall should be articulated to ensure effective change can be made

Organisational Health - Finance

Finance and Exchequer Update

The Chief Financial Officer (CFO) provided an update on the financial position in year. It was noted both the Capital and Resource position remained very challenging, but that PTB work was ongoing. Initial HMT consequential funding indications were lower than anticipated with final confirmation not expected until much later in the financial year. A capital savings exercise was currently underway to explore further savings options.
Head of Fiscal Sustainability Unit and Director for Budget and Public Spending provided an update on fiscal sustainability indicators, the overall projected position remaining broadly unchanged, with a slight deterioration and overprogramming in Capital forecast. A Strategic Framework was in place for budget setting, comprising revenue generation including tax, better targeting, strategic reform and reprioritisation and Resource Spending Review (RSR) implementation. RSR implementation will be considered at future Delivery ET meetings. 
In discussion the Board noted:

  • slippage of in year forecasts would have ongoing impacts on future years, with further rebaselining required
  • the bilateral meetings with DFM were not yet complete, with outcomes and options taken within these sessions to be finalised
  • backstop options could be utilised to ease pressure including use of Scotwind income, increased resource borrowing. These backstop options will increase pressures to be managed in future financial years if activated in 2023-24
  • any further Health consequentials will be required to manage the Health budget position
  • increased focus on longer term saving options and impacts alongside in year would be beneficial, noting the interdependency, and understanding the opportunity costs of activity will help inform further deprioritisation decisions
  • decision making should have strategic focus, considering ‘spend to save’ options that generate benefits in future years, ensuring portfolio and crosscutting outcomes are maximised
  • collective leadership focus should be on maximising the 2024-25 budget process to ensure effective deprioritisation and delivery of PSR agenda to reduce the Scottish Government’s public spending baseline, recognising the benefits from NXD engagement in the process, and ensuring this happens consistently to maximise their value add

Annual Accounts

Deputy Director, Corporate Finance, and Head of Financial Management and Reporting provided an update on the production and external audit of the SG’s 2022-23 Consolidated Accounts. The report is currently in draft with a date for publication still to be confirmed. A standalone paper setting out the governance report will be presented at SGAAC and support for parliamentary questions (PQs) and First Ministers Questions (FMQs) will also be prepared.
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • Performance, Delivery and Resilience (PDR) unit continued to develop the performance aspects of the report, with a focus on being data driven and alignment with existing performance reporting. A new ‘State of the Nation’ report will be produced by reporting year end
  • the need to ensure SG has the supporting architecture in place to move into in a stronger position for reporting in 24/25
  • the importance of keeping the public well informed and the role that the Consolidated Accounts play in delivering this in an objective and efficient manner

Organisational Health - Risk

Strategic Horizon Scanning

Head of Risk Management Policy and Director for Performance, Delivery and Resilience provided an overview of the collaborative approach undertaken to map out the risk landscape, focusing on where risks are held, potential emerging risks and the impact on deliverability of key outcomes. The reporting seeks to drive consideration of the wider risk landscape in order to improve risk identification and responses both to current risks and longer term risks and opportunities.
A proposal will be taken to ET to drive ownership of major Civil Contingency Emergency risks and collective risk responses through assignment of Senior Responsible Officers (SROs), overseen by a steering group.
A new horizon scan is due to begin in December 2023, examining potential growing risks over the coming decades. Engagement would take place with the Executive Team to test the scope of this work. In future, outputs would be published in a report to publicly demonstrate actions taken.
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • that the reporting was comprehensive and a welcome addition to the corporate reporting information
  • the large scale of some risks, and the potential for further responsibility training for SROs overseeing these
  • the importance of capturing opportunity risks, where potential gains are lost by failing to act on a risk
  • that all risks are looking to manage the organisation’s fiscal sustainability in some way, and so the fiscal sustainability risk could be removed from the corporate short-term risks
  • the overlap between short-term and long-term risks, and impact that short-term risks can have over a longer period of time
  • the potential opportunity to expose drivers of risks through work with local government and public bodies
  • the impact of the war in Ukraine across a variety of risks

Covid Inquiries Response Risk

Interim Director, Covid Inquiries Response Directorate provided an overview of the work underway to prepare for the Scotland-specific module of the COVID-19 Inquiry which will occur in January 2024. The organisation has a commitment to be transparent, and to support staff and former staff as they participate in the process, with procedures and policies in place to do so both during and after the inquiry. A key focus will be on lessons-learned, ensuring that the organisation has learned from the experience and can build on these lessons moving forward. Those called to provide evidence to the inquiry are expected to be confirmed by mid-November.
In discussion, the Board noted:

  • the importance of planning ahead now to prepare and make resources available over Winter
  • the value of having empowered deputies to support colleagues managing pressure from the inquiry alongside regular work commitments, and to attend any committee appearances that fall within the same timeframe

Organisational Health - People

HR Project Manager provided an overview on outcomes sought by People Strategy and the creation of new threshold levels within people metrics, to enhance accountability lines following changes within People Directorate (PD) Operating Model. This was initially focused across three priority areas: Average Working Days Lost (AWDL), recruitment and TRS/TP. This data would then be used to support DG assurance meetings and any associated required actions. 
Director, People provided an overview on the linkage into overall workforce priorities, noting that there was a reduction in staffing numbers from previous year, and that the launch of Oracle cloud system will enable target tracking on the overall headcount.
In discussion the Board noted:

  • positive position of the headcount trajectory and the need to continue towards smaller, more efficient operations that continued to reflect the diversity of the country it delivers for
  • the thresholds felt appropriate for identification of stress in the system though could be further enhanced by using multiple data sets as a performance guide, such as over time, flexi time balances and TRS/TP
  • the workforce trajectory and proposed threshold embodied the Public Service reform (PSR) ambition to become smaller more efficient organisations, and it should be a priority to ensure the PD work aligns with PSR reform

Public Service Reform

Director of Covid Recovery and Public Service Reform, and the Deputy Director, Public Spending, provided an update on the development of the PSR programme, the associated risks, and the need to incorporate the programme into the budgetary process. These risks include reconciling a long-term strategy with short term demands; the capacity of the sector to deliver reform; and public acceptance of reformation.
In discussion the Board noted:

  • an appreciation of the long term, strategic nature of the programme
  • that SG needs to empower public bodies to embrace and reform, and as a priority, reduce the size of their workforces. Police Scotland and Scottish Fire and Rescue were recognised as exemplars of this
  • the potential impact of political risks (specifically changes of Government) associated with such a long-term strategy was highlighted, alongside the need for sustained political support
  • the inclusion of three-year staged programmes (following the election cycle) as part of an overarching 10-year strategy could assist in maintaining momentum and sustained political support
  • how reform could support Public Bodies moving towards self-funded models and greater self-sufficiency
  • the impact of the current no-compulsory redundancy policy which could restrict radical reshaping options
  • the Solace Conference considered approaches to Local Government and Public Service Reform
  • the choice of driving efficiency within and across Public Bodies through either headcount or budgets noting that each approach has distinct benefits and disbenefits
  • each DG should have a Public Sector Reform plan and their own “lighthouse” exemplars
  • this forum is the best way to check progress, and progress is being made

Any other business

The next Board date was confirmed as 12 December 2023.


Corporate Board minutes


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