25 June 2004
Thousands of public sector jobs in Scotland could be axed as part of an efficiency drive affecting civil servants, council staff and employees of public agencies.
First Minister Jack McConnell and Finance Minister Andy Kerr have indicated that priority will be given to major improvements in transport infrastructure and to frontline services.
Councils will come under pressure to merge back offices that handle administrative services such as council tax collection, payrolls and pensions.
Efficiency targets will be set for central government departments. Councils, health boards and quangos will be ordered to cut waste and eliminate duplication.
Scottish Executive ministers are conducting their own spending review, which is due to be completed in September.
Kerr is planning to find savings of £500m by 2007 and £1bn by 2010.
FMcConnell said that his spending review, the third since devolution, will be tougher than before as grant funding from the Treasury was expected to tighten.
'I don't think anybody should be in any doubt that we will be at least as rigorous as the UK government in making sure money is getting spent properly,' he said.
Following talks this week with permanent secretary John Elvidge, the Scottish secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Eddie Reilly, said he had failed to obtain any real assurances on the safeguarding of jobs.
Reilly told Public Finance that he believed McConnell's task was to cut jobs as part of the exercise affecting the rest of the UK. 'My suspicion is that we are experiencing the Scottish version of the political bidding war that's going on in Whitehall,' he said.