Friday, 11 January 2019

Glasgow v Edinburgh - Compare and Contrast

Here's the leading article from The Times which reached the conclusion that the head of the civil service in Scotland should be sacked over the government's handling of two complaints of sexual harassment against the former first minister, Alex Salmond.

Now I think there's much more to come out in this case - not just the outcome of the Police Scotland investigation, but also over the role of the current First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon.

The latest unexpected twist in the story is that Nicola Sturgeon now admits to having had previously undisclosed meetings/discussions with her predecessor instead of leaving these matters to the relevant Scottish Government and/or SNP officials.  

Yet the real story is that the Scottish Government's failings are as nothing compared to the scandal in Glasgow where the long 12 year fight for equal pay has:

  • adversely affected the lives of thousands of the lowest  paid City Council council workers
  • allowed large numbers of employees to 'pass away' while waiting for their claims to be settled  
  • led to an enormous equal pay bill which will cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds to settle 

Yet in Glasgow City Council - no one has apologised and not a single head has rolled.

No Hiding Place

In her handling of the Alex Salmond investigation Scotland’s most senior civil servant is guilty of an egregious lapse of judgment and she should be sacked

The #MeToo phenomenon has posed an enormous challenge to employers everywhere. Managers have had to look at their existing practices on sexual harassment in the workplace and ask themselves whether they are fit for purpose in the 21st century. In many cases they have proved woefully inadequate and required updating. This has happened right across the private and public sectors and such reforms are to be welcomed.

There is no place in the modern workplace for the abuse of power that has been a feature of too many organisations for too long. But there is no point in setting out strict new rules on sexual harassment if the enforcement of those rules is flawed. In fact, failings in the application of such rules can be enormously damaging, not least to employees who have gathered the courage to make a complaint in the first place. Failure to handle such complaints with the utmost professionalism and thoroughness is a fundamental betrayal of an employer’s duty of care.

Which brings us to the case of Alex Salmond. The former first minister successfully argued in court this week that a Scottish government investigation into alleged sexual misconduct on his part during his time in Bute House had been unfair. His lawyers were able to show that a civil servant heading the inquiry into Mr Salmond’s conduct was not, as the Scottish government’s new procedures demand, someone with no prior knowledge of the alleged circumstances. Outside the court, facing the press, Mr Salmond called for the resignation of Leslie Evans, permanent secretary of the Scottish government, who had been instrumental in both drawing up the new procedures and their application in his case.

Mr Salmond, who denies criminality and disputes the accounts of the two women, has little to celebrate. He is still the subject of a police investigation into complaints made by the two women. Despite the collapse of the Scottish government inquiry into his alleged behaviour, he faces the possibility that the civil service could in future launch a fresh investigation into the same complaints. His victory in court this week is therefore not an exoneration. In one regard, however, Mr Salmond is entirely justified: he is right to say Ms Evans should resign.

This is not a case of a “scalp” being required in response to a political embarrassment. The unavoidable truth is that Ms Evans failed in her duty of care not just to the women who put their trust in the system but also to Mr Salmond. Procedures to investigate allegations of sexual misconduct must be fair both to accusers and accused. This simply did not happen in this instance. The rules were clear. And yet the rules were not followed to the letter.

In Holyrood on Tuesday afternoon, Nicola Sturgeon apologised to the two women. “I can only imagine how difficult the decision to raise concerns as well as the publicity around this investigation and the judicial review must have been for them in recent months,” the first minister said. “They had every right to expect the process to be robust and beyond reproach in every aspect of it, and to reach a lasting conclusion. And I am sorry on this occasion that has not been the case.”

Ms Sturgeon’s own anguish about this was plain. And yet her actions this week were insufficient to the moment. The failure by Ms Evans to ensure the process in this case was scrupulously fair was an egregious lapse by Scotland’s most senior civil servant. In acknowledging the scale of the error, Ms Sturgeon should also have acknowledged that Ms Evans’s position was no longer tenable. The first minister should have asked for her permanent secretary’s resignation. That she did not do so immediately reflects poorly on Ms Sturgeon. The first minister can go some way to rectifying this lapse by sacking Ms Evans now.

Compare and Contrast (10/01/19)

The Times has apparently published a leading article  which calls for the head of the civil service in Scotland to be sacked over the government's mishandling of two sexual harassment complaints against the former first minister, Alex Salmond.

Which led to the following conversation on Twitter earlier today.

 5 hours ago

The Times calls for the resignation of Leslie Evans over botched investigation into alleged sexual misconduct by Alex Salmond. Argues that Nicola Sturgeon should have sacked her.

In her handling of the Alex Salmond investigation, Scotland’s most senior civil servant is guilty of an egregious lapse of judgment and she should be sacked, argues today's leading article

Mark Irvine 

Interesting - yet not a single head has rolled in Glasgow City Council where senior officials have made a dog’s dinner of equal pay, defended discriminatory pay arrangements for years and run up an enormous equal pay bill which will cost taxpayers hundreds of millions to settle!

Yeah, that's because the Labour councilors responsible got voted out.

Mark Irvine   Replying to @JRingpiece @KennyFarq@alexmassie

Many of the Labour councillors are still there, but the senior officials - the highly paid professionals who gave the Council such awful advice are still in post - and somewhat incredibly the SNP-led council is now defending their track record.

I'll have more to say when I've been able to read the piece in The Times, but if you ask me the Scottish Government's failings are as nothing, compared to the scandal over equal pay in Glasgow which has harmed the lives of thousands of low paid workers and will cost the taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds to settle.


Compare and Contrast (09/01/19)

Alex Salmond is never 'backward about coming forward' especially on his own behalf, so I read his comments on his recent court victory over the Scottish Government with great interest.

Here's an extract of what Alex had to say and his full comments can be read via the link below to The Daily Record.

"As a result, Leslie Evans, the Permanent Secretary, has wasted huge amounts of public money in and incompetent attempt to enforce an unlawful process.

"Now having incurred those costs to the pubic purse, she has collapsed the case prior to a full hearing.

"......the Scottish Government's conduct in this case as an institution has unquestionably lacked candour.

"Officials repeatedly failed to disclose documents to the Court which were of central importance.

"Those documents ultimately made clear the apparent bias and procedural unfairness which has only now been admitted."

In essence Alex has called for the head of the civil service to resign or to be sacked which I suspect is unlikely to happen because the irregularities involved are 'procedural' rather than about the merits of his case.

But compare what's going on in the Scottish Government to what's been going on in Scotland's largest council, where senior officials have been fighting tooth and nail to defend Glasgow's WPBR pay scheme for years, even after the WPBR had been condemned as 'unfit for purpose' by the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court.

The same group of officials are also unwilling to 'come clean' over their role in the WPBR and are refusing my FoI requests which would hold them properly to account, in my view, by releasing important WPBR documents into the public domain.

Just what do they have to hide?


Compare and Contrast (08/01/19)

The head of Scotland's civil service apologises, and rightly so, for a flaw in the procedure under which complaints of harassment against Alex Salmond were investigated.

Compare and contrast this swift apology with the behaviour of senior officials in Glasgow who have never expressed any regret for defending the Council's 'unfit for purpose' WPBR pay scheme for 12 long years.

Up to and including a spectacularly unsuccessful attempt (in December 2017) to overturn the Court of Session's 'unfit for purpose' judgement by appealing this decision to the UK Supreme Court in London.

The court's decision in Alex Salmond's case is based on the doctrine of 'clean hands', i.e. that a person investigating a complaint should not have prior knowledge or involvement in the case to avoid accusations of taint or prejudice.

So let me remind readers of what I had to say yesterday about my FOI Request regarding Glasgow City Council's WPBR pay scheme.

And just to add a final 'Alice in Wonderland' touch to proceedings, sharp-eyed readers may notice that the Council's initial response has been sent "On behalf of Carole Forrest, Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council" - and that the FOI Review process is also conducted by 'Carole Forrest, Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council'.

As they say, you couldn't make this up.