Scotland politics

Senior quango staff paid more than first minister, think tank says

Alex Salmond Image copyright Scottish Government / Crown Copyright
Image caption The report said 43 senior quango executives were paid more than First Minister Alex Salmond

Forty-three senior quango executives in Scotland are paid more than the first minister, a report has said.

The report by Reform Scotland added that 132 quango officials were paid more than a cabinet secretary and 686 received more than an MSP.

Research director Alison Payne said quangos lacked "democratic accountability".

The Scottish government said pay was in relation to responsibilities and to support "recruitment and retention".

A quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisation, or quango, is a public body not directly controlled by government. It can be a direct provider of public services, an advisory body or a regulator.

Reform Scotland, a free market think tank, submitted Freedom of Information requests to the 71 quangos which receive funding from the Scottish government.

The findings of their report were based on the 61 quangos who responded, and showed that 43 officials were paid more than the first minister's salary of £140,647.

This was more than double the 19 officials highlighted in a report by the think tank last year.

The research found 132 quango officials were paid more than the £101,000 annual pay of a cabinet secretary in the Scottish government, 202 officials were paid more than a government minister's salary of £85,000 and 686 received more than an MSP's salary of £58,000.

'Little transparency'

Reform Scotland's research director Alison Payne said: "These salaries themselves may be able to be justified - that is not for us to say. What cannot be justified is the use of quangos to this extent.

"They are neither fully democratically accountable nor fully independent of government, so these salary awards are subject to very little transparency or democratic accountability.

"Scotland needs to end its love affair with quangos.

"They should either be reintegrated into government to make ministers accountable for them, or they should be made fully independent bodies contracting with the government to provide a service, with the government accountable for ensuring high performance."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "Since October 2007, the number of devolved public bodies has reduced from 199 to 113, greatly exceeding the government's original target to reduce the number by 25%."

He continued: "Pay ranges are assigned in relation to the roles and responsibilities of the position and to support the recruitment and retention of staff.

"We expect all parts of the public sector to ensure their activities deliver maximum value for money and we are continuing to look for further opportunities to simplify and streamline the public sector landscape, to reduce costs and improve the quality and efficiency of public services."

Scottish Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone said: "The Scottish government is ultimately responsible for many of these organisations, and it's time it got to grips with the situation.

"It spends much time bemoaning low wages, yet uses every trick in the book to ensure people working at the top of the public sector are paid private sector wages."

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