By a Newsnet reporter
The SNP has called on opposition leaders to drop their political attacks on the civil service and apologise after the UK’s most senior civil servant backed Scottish Government Permanent Secretary Sir Peter Housden.
Sir Gus O’Donnell confirmed in a letter to the three Holyrood opposition leaders that it is “right and proper that civil servants undertake the relevant work to support their Ministers to pursue their aims, whether or not these are the subject of political controversy”.
Sir Gus’s intervention came after Labour leader Iain Gray, Conservative leader Annabel Goldie and Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie made formal complaints after comments written by Sir Peter on an internal Scottish Government website were made public.
Sir Gus O’Donnell has now ruled that the remarks by Sir Peter were not “inconsistent” with an official code of conduct. Sir Gus’s letter comes after the cross bench peer Lord Butler and former head of the UK Civil Service told the House of Lords yesterday that:
“Just as it is the duty of the rest of the civil service to support the policies of the administration they serve, so it is the duty of the civil service in Scotland to advise on the policies of the Scottish executive.”
Responding to the ruling SNP MSP and Senior Whip Bill Kidd called the attacks by the three Unionist parties on the impartiality of Scottish civil servants “disgraceful” and called for a full apology.
Mr Kidd said:
“For opposition parties to seek to politicise the work of the civil service is disgraceful. Goldie, Gray and Willie Rennie must apologise for their efforts to tarnish the reputations of independent civil servants.
“This is simply sour grapes from parties who are still struggling to accept that the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly for a majority SNP Government and for the exciting opportunity to debate and decide on their country’s future.”