Top Hats, Boiler Suits and Equal Pay


A reminder from the blog archive about some of the senior figures from Glasgow City Council who have walked away with public honours (CBEs, OBEs etc) having played  pivotal roles in the council's equal pay debacle over the past 17 years. 

Even now the SNP led council refuses to concede its WPBR pay scheme is discriminatory - despite the fact the WPBR was judged to be 'unfit for purpose' by the Court of Session, Scotland's highest civil court, in 2017.


Arise, Sir Mark! (30/06/18)

I have been battling with Glasgow City Council since January 2018 to get an answer to an FOI Request in which I asked for details about the cost of introducing the WPBR pay scheme.
Initially the Council said it did not have any of this information which struck me as rather odd because the whole business of Equal Pay and the WPBR is (and was) the biggest single employment-related event in the history of Glasgow City Council.

So you would think that the Council's senior and very highly paid officials would have scribbled the odd note for posterity, just in case future generations decided to ask:

"Where did all the money go and what was it spent on?"

But to get round the problem of what I call the 'Manuel Defence' or 'I know nothing defence' I wrote to the Council suggesting that some of its former senior officials be contacted to see if they could help get to the bottom of things. 

Here's the letter I sent to Carole Forrest at the time in an effort to persuade the Council to go that 'extra mile' in tracking down this important information.

Sadly the Council rejected my helpful suggestion and so I registered an appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner and what do you know?

All of a sudden the Council found some more information which had been 'overlooked' first time around and I am now in the happy position of being able to share this news via my blog site.

I will do this in the next day or so but in the meantime I have discovered that as well as Lynn Brown receiving an OBE 'for services to local government and charity', so too did Elma Murray (for services to local government, education and the economy), while George Black trumped them both with his CBE 'for services to local government'.

So George is a Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire while his two women colleagues are mere Officers of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire which strikes me a teeny, weeny bit sexist. 

I suspect my own nomination for a Knighthood or CBE 'for services in the long fight for equal pay in Scotland's councils' must have got lost in the post.

31 January 2018

Carole Forrest
Director of Governance and Solicitor to the Council
Glasgow City Council

Dear Carole

FOISA Review Request - Your Ref: RQST6467009

I refer to your letter dated 9 January 2018 regarding the monies paid by Glasgow City Council (GCC) to Hays HR Consulting to design an develop the Workforce Pay and Benefits Review (WPBR).

I am minded to appeal Glasgow's decision to the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC), but before doing so I would be grateful if you could clarify what effort, if any, the City Council has made to retrieve this information from the following potential sources.

1) Lynn Brown - GCC's former Director of Finance 

Glasgow's former Director of Finance left the City Council's employment a relatively short time ago, in September 2016 if I remember correctly, and I imagine she must be easy to contact at this point in time. I met Lynn Brown during my dealings with GCC as a member of SLARC (Scottish Local Authorities Remuneration Committee) and I was impressed with her forensic knowledge of Glasgows finances. 

I understand that Lynn was Glasgow's Director of Finance from 2003 until 2016 and given the unique circumstances surrounding the commissioning of the WPBR from Hays HR Consulting, I suspect Lynn could help to identify the costs involved. 

I also understand than Lynn was awarded an OBE for services to local government in the New Year Honours list for 2016, so I suspect she would be more than happy to assist the City Council in this matter.

2) Elma Murray - GCC's former Head of Organisational Change

Glasgow's former 'Head of Organisational Change and Depute Director of Finance' was in post, I believe, during the relevant period up until 2009 and I have seen Elma's name on a variety of important documents relating to the WPBR including reports on the Employee Development Commitment (EDC) Steering Group, for example.

I understand that Elma is now the chief executive of North Lanarkshire Council and while I don't know Elma personally, I would imagine that she would also be willing to help GCC get to the bottom of my FOI request.

3) Ian Drummond - GCC's former Executive Director of Corporate Services

Ian Drummond is Glasgow's former Executive Director of Corporate Services and I am sure Ian must have played a pivotal part in awarding the WPBR contract to Hays HR Consulting. 

As you know, Ian Drummond was the subject of a previous FOI Review Request from me which went all the way to the Scottish Information Commissioner (SIC) who upheld my subsequent appeal. The City Council contacted Ian Drummond directly about my initial FOISA Request, even though he had retired from the council's employment in 2010.

Which means there is a useful precedent for contacting former senior officials on matters of public interest and importance.

4) George Black - GCC's former Chief Executive 

As Glasgow's former Chief Executive and Director of Finance I would say that George Black's knowledge of the City Council is second to none, so he would seem an obvious person to contact, especially as George only left the council's employment at the end of 2014.

In summary, I would be grateful to know what steps the City Council has taken to contact these various individuals in an effort to respond to my original FOISA Request and if the answer is 'none', whether the City Council is prepared to do so now in order to avoid a potentially unnecessary appeal to the Scottish Information Commissioner.

I look forward to your reply and would be grateful if you could respond to me by email at:

Kind regards

Mark Irvine

Top Hats, Trade Unions and Boiler Suits (June 13, 2021)


I missed out on the Queen's Birthday Honours list again, but I can't say I'm disappointed unlike my old Unison colleagues Matt Smith and Anne Middleton who received an OBE and MBE some years ago.

Quite why Matt received an OBE and Anne an MBE I have no idea, but apparently an OBE is the more 'prestigious' of the two.

Senior council officials in Glasgow featured regularly in the honours list until relatively recently, but I think I played a part in putting a stop to this practice by poking fun at their hypocrisy and woeful performance over equal pay.  

As Wlliam McIlvanney said: "There have been a lot of honours given for dubious reasons in the past, like providing your wife as the king's bed warmer. The system is riddled with ludicrous elements."

Well said sir, well said!


Top Hats and Boiler Suits (January 27, 2020)

Scots actor Brian Cox accepted a CBE in 2003 at the ripe old age of 56, yet in 2020, at the slightly riper age of 73, Cox now says that he feels 'uncomfortable' with the honours system.  

What a strange way to behave if you ask me, especially as so many Scots (prominent and not so prominent) have been scathing about about the honours system for many years.

Scots writer William McIlvanney got it right, in my view, when he he turned down an OBE in the Queen’s honours list – and went on to compare the honour to "putting a top hat on a man in a boiler suit".

Scot actor Brian Cox regrets CBE and would 'never accept knighthood'

The Dundee-born actor said he should have 'thought better' after accepting his CBE in 2003 for his services to drama.

By Stuart Macdonald - Daily Record
Brian Cox (Image: GC Images)

Scots actor Brian Cox has said he regrets becoming a CBE and would never accept a knighthood.

The Dundee-born star said he should have “thought better” after accepting the honour in 2003 for his services to drama.

Cox, 73, has campaigned for Scottish independence and said he didn’t think he would be made a sir because of that.

But he insisted he’d turn it down anyway as he feels uncomfortable with the honours system.

Cox said: “When I became a CBE, I accepted it because I’m fickle. I have a royalist sister and a republican sister and I thought, ‘Well, my royalist sister will be happy,” but she couldn’t give a s**t.

“Now I would never be a knight. I wouldn’t want to do that. A CBE is usually a precursor to getting a knighthood. I got my CBE a while ago and I have been so active in Scottish independence.”

Cox won best actor in a TV drama for his role as media magnate Logan Roy in Succession at the Golden Globe awards this month.

Top Hats and Boiler Suits (August 25th 2009)

Another great story to appear in the press recently concerns William McIlvanney - one of Scotland's most celebrated and talented writers.

McIlvanney revealed that he turned down an OBE in the Queen’s honours list – and went on to compare the honour to "putting a top hat on a man in a boiler suit".

William McIlvanney explained that his decision was private - unlike that of artist and writer John Byrne - the inspiration behind the smash hit series Tutti Frutti - and all the madness involving The Majestics, Eddie Clockerty and Miss Toner.

But John Byrne was making a serious point - when he rejected an MBE for services to art and literature recently - to signify his "absolute disgust" at the Iraq war.

William McIlvanney told the Scotland on Sunday that had written to Downing Street to say he would not be accepting the OBE for "purely personal" reasons.

"It's something that I tried on in my mind, and I found it didn't fit," he explained. "The sleeves were too long, and it just wasn't part of me.”

“It felt like trying to put a top hat on a man in a boiler suit.”

"The idea of rejecting an honour isn't something I've done with any anger, or to demean other people. There are a lot of people who carry out unsung work. I'm only too happy for them to be recognised."

McIlvanney said: "There have been a lot of honours given for dubious reasons in the past, like providing your wife as the king's bed warmer. The system is riddled with ludicrous elements."

But not everyone takes such a noble stand - there are lots of trade unionists only too glad to accept such honours - as a quick Google search shows:

• Bernard McGill (MBE) – from the north east regional TUC
• Felicity Mendelson (MBE) – from Unison (north east)
• Anne Middleton (MBE) - former deputy regional secretary Unison (Scotland)
• Terri Miller (MBE) – from Unite (south east)
• Matt Smith (OBE) – current regional secretary Unison (Scotland)
• Yvonne Strachan (OBE) - former regional organiser TGWU (Scotland) – now Unite

And that’s the eternal battle within the trade union movement – how to challenge the establishment – while resisting the temptation to become part of the establishment.

Some people do it better than others - you pays your money and takes your choice.

Michael McGahey – a Scottish miner and former leader of the NUM – would never have crossed the road for an MBE or OBE.

So hats off to Mick McGahey, William McIlvanney and John Byrne - so long as it's not Top Hats, of course.

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