I’ve been reflecting on my first year as Permanent Secretary and considering the importance of partnership working, not least in the Scottish Government’s change programme, SG2020, which I launched a few months after taking up my post.
This is about transforming the Scottish Government to meet the challenges of the future - those we can identify and predict, and those we can’t.
Partnership working was part of the programme from its earliest days. We asked our colleagues throughout the organisation to picture what the Scottish Government should look like in 2020 and to consider ‘what to keep’ and ‘what to leave behind’. Teams held conversations discussing what has to change for us to become the organisation we need, and want to be, over the next 5 years.
The result? A Scottish Government that is open, capable and responsive; and recognition of the cooperation, effort and partnership working across the organisation to realise this ambition.
Tangible changes are already taking place as a result of the change programme. It was very clear that our staff would like to ‘leave behind’ the current promotions process. So, over the last year, HR have been working in partnership with the unions and staff focus groups to develop a fairer and more flexible approach to promotions, to launch in the autumn. And we have redesigned back office support for myself, my directors general and for ministers, streamlining systems and saving time and money.
Partnership working between ministers and the Executive Team is also informing the work of the SG2020 change programme. The Cabinet Secretary for Finance is lead minister for SG2020 and is working with directors general to drive the agenda, which includes delivering the new Programme for Government, the forthcoming Spending Review and matching staff resources to these new priorities. I am co-hosting staff events with the minister this week to explain how SG2020 is taking shape and supporting a more integrated and joined-up approach to government business, and to enable staff to ask the minister about his views on progress to date and future challenges.
Additional powers are being devolved to the Scottish Government in areas such as tax and social security. Partnerships and effective robust relationships will become more important than ever, as we work with Scottish Parliament, UK Government colleagues, local government, and third-party organisations to deliver these new services to the people of Scotland. Indeed, the Devolution and You programme is more important than ever for civil servants working in all of the UK administrations. We all need to understand further devolution and the impact of policy decisions on colleagues. I’d recommend the training and guidance available.
The SG2020 change programme has drawn on our Partnership Agreement with unions as a firm foundation. I chair our Partnership Board which is made up of representatives from our unions and directors general – another example of our investment in relationships with key partners.
The key to successful partnership working is clarity and consistency, nourished by regular communication, and underpinned by openness, trust and mutual respect. SG2020 is a good example of investing and supporting partnerships with a purpose. Our staff awareness of the programme is currently over 90% – but there is still more work to do to ensure that people remain engaged and empowered in working towards our ambition of becoming a more open, capable, and responsive organisation. Partnership working will be essential to this success.
Follow Leslie Evans on Twitter: @PermSecScot.