Secondment vacancies in the Scottish Government: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002.

Information requested

1. How many secondment vacancies has the Scottish Government created/made available over the past three years 2019, 2018, 2017?

2. How many of these secondment opportunities were advertised publicly e.g. on the Scottish Government website, or other internet website?

3. How many of the above secondments (1) were filled without publicly advertising? And recruited to from out with the Scottish Government

4. Can you share the Scottish Government policy on offering secondments.


The Scottish Government seconded 89 individuals during 2017, 103 during 2018 and 60 during 2019.

Secondments are not advertised on the Scottish Government Website – Work for Scotland - as this website is designed for the recruitment of Scottish Government staff. All secondees remain the staff/employees of their actual employers and remain on their existing employer’s terms and conditions; they are not Scottish Government staff. All inward secondments to Scottish Government are recruited from external bodies. After giving due consideration to where they might source talented people, Scottish Government Business Areas may advertise using other websites i.e. DG Health and Social Care sometimes use Scottish Health On The Web to source medical/health professionals. Business areas decide on their advertising strategy on a case-by-case basis and while our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the costs of locating, retrieving and detailing specific strategies would exceed the upper cost limit of £600.

The Scottish Government policy on secondments is as detailed at Annex A

Annex A

What is an interchange
Interchange is the temporary exchange of people between the Scottish Government and other public (central and local government and non-departmental public bodies), private and voluntary organisations.

The Scottish Government encourages interchanges as a way of exchanging skills and experiences, building networks and increasing development and career opportunities.

Interchanges can be:

  • loans: where you move onto another other government departments terms, conditions and payroll
  • secondments: to/from an organisation outwith the Civil Service
  • short-term interchange: placements of up to three months, working for example on a short-term project(s) or studies
  • shadowing: this can involve accompanying someone during his or her working day or week without any formal arrangements required

Secondments and loans normally last between three months and two years. To ensure knowledge and skills gained on outward interchange return to the Scottish Government, outward secondments/loans cannot be added onto a previous secondment/loan - there should be a 12 month gap in between.

Please note: Civil Service Commission approval is required at the outset if a secondment is beyond two years and/or the secondee’s salary will exceed Senior Civil Service pay band 2 minimum (currently £90,500 per annum).

Arranging an inward secondment or loan
Secondments are transfers with organisations outwith the Civil Service and loans are temporary transfers between government departments.

A secondment of longer than three months is classed as formal, and inward secondees remain an employee of their donor organisation for the duration of the interchange.

Managers should not agree or attempt to negotiate any changes to their terms and conditions of employment.

To gain approval for a secondment you must:

  1. Complete a job description.
  2. Complete an authorisation to recruit/business case, signed off by your deputy director.
  3. Send both forms to HR Resourcing for approval.

Once a secondment has been approved, managers are responsible for the recruitment process, including identification of candidates, assessment, selection and feedback.

Once approved you should:

  • request applications to be submitted using the inward secondment application form
  • sift and interview panels should follow standard guidance, although two panel members is sufficient
  • before proceeding, you must obtain written confirmation (forward to HR Resourcing) from the applicant to establish whether they have held a fixed term (without fair and open competition) civil service post or secondment in the 12 months prior to the appointment start date. The Civil Service Commission requires there to be a 12 month break between such appointments. If there has not been a break of 12 months or more the person cannot be appointed
  • offer of secondment should be made using the sample offer letter template, and a Disclosure Certificate requested
  • forward the Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) form to the successful applicant as explained in security and access
  • prepare a standard inward secondment agreement, ensure it is signed by the donor organisation, with a copy sent to HR Resourcing
  • consult HR on any changes to the standard secondment agreement
  • send a welcome letter to the secondee, copied to the donor organisation and HR succession planning, talent and resourcing team. You should attach the Scottish Government's IT Code of Conduct, Civil Service Management Code and the Official Secrets Act (1989)

Please note that individuals on salaries of £90,500 or more cannot be seconded to the Scottish Government without permission from the Civil Service Commissioners. HR resourcing will seek permission on your behalf but need to be informed in advance of anyone on this level of income.

General data protection regulations (GDPR)
Recruiting managers must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation and Data Protection Act 2018. This means that all personal data gathered as part of the recruitment exercise (that is not returned to HR Resourcing) must be destroyed once your requirement to hold this information has ended.

CVs and any sift or assessment notes must be destroyed 16 days after the decision on the most appropriate candidate to fill the secondment/loan opportunity has been notified to the candidate(s).

Arrange an inward loan
As an inward loan follows a separate process, please contact HR Resourcing in the first instance to discuss how to take this forward.

Security and access
All non-government staff must have Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS) clearance before they can access our buildings.

Good induction practices should provide anyone new to a team with information and support to help them better understand their new job and its context within the wider team and/or directorate.

Further information on corporate induction, including mandatory training courses, is available on the learning pages.

Manage a secondment or loan
It is important to ensure that inward secondees are supported during the time they spend in the Scottish Government (SG). This will help to maximise the opportunity, achieve business objectives and demonstrate good relations have been built up during the secondment period.

Managers should:

  • establish a regular two-way dialogue with the inward secondee by offering support and guidance when necessary. Read guidance on monthly conversations
  • take particular care at all stages of the secondment to ensure that an employment relationship is not inadvertently established between the secondee and the SG

Individually certain arrangements may not be sufficient to create an employment relationship, but care should be taken to prevent a build-up of factors that, taken together, might enable an employment relationship to be inferred.

Contact [redacted], Interchange Manager, for further guidance.

Other manager responsibilities

  • ensure that the appropriate domestic arrangements are in place for the secondee including the provision of standard office equipment and facilities
  • provide support and guidance to the inward secondee
  • assist and encourage the inward secondee to network whenever possible
  • ensure the inward secondee receives the directorate/division/branch local induction programme and all health and safety issues
  • discuss the main duties/objectives with the secondee providing advice and guidance on ministerial and directorate practices/ procedures
  • provide performance feedback to the donor organisation. The donor organisation remains the employer of the inward secondee and as such they remain responsible for providing this feedback to the individual
  • encourage the inward secondee to attend, when requested, any interchange events. This will help the secondee to keep informed about interchange and network with others in a similar situation
  • complete inward secondment evaluation requests from the recruitment team
  • pay invoices received from the donor organisation on time as agreed in the interchange agreement

HR support
The inward secondee should continue to have the support of their employer whilst on secondment. Ultimately, responsibility will continue to remain with the inward secondee's employer/donor organisation.

This may not always be straightforward as they are away from their employer's office and may be uncertain about who to approach for advice and support.

The first point of contact for inward secondees should be their manager. They may on occasion need to seek HR guidance. HR Resourcing can provide HR advice and guidance when necessary.

Extend an inward secondment
Interchange is the temporary exchange of people and should not be seen as a long-term staffing option. The Civil Service Commission's Recruitment Principles restrict periods of inward secondment to two years. Any proposal for a longer secondment (more than two years) at the outset, or to extend the appointment beyond two years must have the Commission's approval.

The Commission only approves extensions in exceptional circumstances and does not see the need for an individual who developed a programme to stay for the implementation stage.

Different skills are required for implementation than those for development. The Commission suggests proactive planning to transfer knowledge so that implementation can be taken forward by either an existing civil servant or a new secondee. This can be achieved by closer working with the development experts during the course of projects.

Extension business case
The inward secondment extension business case form sets out the type of information to be included in a business case to the Commission. It should be sent to John Petrie to demonstrate that we have completed internal checks and that only the most robust cases are submitted.

Requests should be submitted three months before the end of the secondment period. If the extension is agreed to, the manager should confirm the new secondment end date and that the terms and conditions set out in the original formal inward secondment agreement continue to apply to and the secondees employer.

Outward secondment and loans
If you are interested in an outward interchange, information and opportunities are available on our current secondment and loan opportunities page.

Arranging an outward secondment:

Any interchange longer than three months is classed as formal.

To apply you should:

  1. Get agreement from your deputy director and manager (plus head of profession if you are in a professional group).
  2. Complete the outward interchange application form, giving their reasons for applying for the secondment opportunity. Applications for European Seconded National Experts must be accompanied by a letter from your director confirming that they will release you and fund the secondment and costs.
  3. Submit this, along with the application form to HR Resourcing.

HR will check your eligibility and will ensure the application is in line with interchange policy. They will then submit the application on your behalf, or inform you in writing of the reasons why not.

This may take up to two weeks. For Foreign and Commonwealth Office and European secondments and loans, your application must be received five days before the vacancy closing date.

If your application is successful, the HR team will:

  • liaise with your manager in the SG and host organisation about a suitable start date for the secondment. There will usually be four weeks' notice
  • prepare and issue the interchange agreement between the SG and host organisation
  • confirm the acceptance of both you and the host organisation of the terms and conditions. Two copies of the outward interchange agreement must be signed and returned before the secondment can start
  • inform pay and leave administration colleagues to send your payslip to your home address
  • record your details on their database, and provide information on keeping in touch arrangements
  • ensure continued access to Saltire (this is on a restricted basis)
  • take forward the evaluation process for the interchange experience throughout the secondment
  • provide guidance on your return to the SG after your secondment

Create an opportunity

You are encouraged to think about interchange as an opportunity when agreeing business objectives and your learning and development needs.

Individuals, managers or senior leaders can approach, or be approached, by organisations, companies or individuals that they are in contact with.

HR Resourcing should be involved as early as possible where formal loans and secondments are being considering. They will provide final approval, support a business case development and make the necessary HR arrangements.

Making posts permanent

People on loan to the Scottish Government (who will already have been recruited by their employer through fair and open recruitment) can be moved to permanence in post (lateral transfer) if there is agreement between all parties – employers, Scottish Government and the individual.

Complete the application for loans/secondments to be made permanent form if you wish to move an individual to permanence.


People on secondment to the Scottish Government can be moved to permanence in post (lateral) if the secondment was made on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and there is agreement between all parties – employers, Scottish Government and the individual.

Complete the application for loans/secondments to be made permanent form to enable HR Resourcing to check the secondment agreement meets Civil Service Commission recruitment principles on fair and open competition and start the necessary formal pre-employment process for permanent employment to the Scottish Government.

Fair and open competition

Fair, open and merit based recruitment involves advertising widely across a variety of relevant areas, including media/professional and business associated websites/social media and relevant organisations where, for free, any individual who might have an interest in a secondment opportunity of that particular type will have access. The applicants should then be sifted and interviewed, using the same processes and questions, to identify a successful candidate on the basis of merit. The business will need to be able to display this process.

About FOI
The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

Back to top