Monday, 2 February 2015

Yes & Friends

FROM the 'Where are they now?' file comes news of Susan Stewart.
The former Director of Communications at Yes Scotland, founder of Women for Indy, and prominent all-round Yes campaigner has just been hired as a consultant to the SNP government.
The government denies any suggestion of cronyism, but opposition eyebrows remain raised.
Here's a longer version of the story in today's Herald.

Tom Gordon

A LEADING member of the Yes campaign has been hired as a consultant to the SNP Government, prompting opposition questions about cronyism.

Susan Stewart, who was director of communications at Yes Scotland during the referendum and a founder member of the Women for Independence group, has become the government's new £330-a-day International Engagement Manager.
She will work in the External Affairs Directorate in Edinburgh on a temporary contract of up to 12 months, the government confirmed last night.
Her job specification includes reviewing and improving "diaspora management" to help promote Scotland overseas through networks of ex-pats.

She will also examine how best to deploy "cultural diplomacy and soft power" for Scotland, and make "practical recommendations to Ministers".

Her bosses in the department are Fiona Hyslop, the Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Europe & External Affairs, and Humza Yousaf, the Minister for Europe and International Development, who last year helped launch a "Scottish Diaspora Tapestry".

Yousaf's wife, Gail Lythgoe, was one of Stewart's colleagues at Yes Scotland in 2012 and 2013.

Back in the day at Yes Scotland: Susan Stewart front row, second from R

Opposition parties expressed surprise that people were given just four days to apply when the new job was briefly advertised online in October, and noted the Scottish Government published a Diaspora Engagement Plan more than four years ago.

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said: "This may raise questions about the SNP's sway over recruitment in the Scottish Government.
"They should provide assurances that every step has been taken to hold a fair recruitment process in order to avoid accusations of cronyism."
Out on the indyref stump

Tory MSP Alex Johnstone added: "The Scottish Government needs to be entirely open about the process of appointing or else face inevitable accusations of cronyism."

Stewart, 49, was Scotland's first dedicated diplomat in the USA, promoting the country in Washington DC from 2001 to 2005, before heading press operations at Glasgow University.
She was employed at Yes Scotland from September 2012 until June 2013 before being axed in a "streamlining" operation.

She was hired for her new post via an outside agency, as a contractor rather than staff.

The position was advertised as having a “maximum pay rate [of] up to £330 a day”.
Bizarrely, Stewart’s partner, Jeane Freeman, was at the centre of a similar cronyism row under Labour.
A former special adviser to Labour First Minister Jack McConnell, Freeman quit in 2005 after Stewart was recalled from her plum job in Washington.
Freeman then set up a consultancy which was later handed a £5000 Scottish Executive education contract without it going out to tender.
Stewart denied any impropriety in her new appointment.
"I was at Yes for eight months. Does that cancel out a 20-plus year career?" she said. 
“This is a temporary post for up to 12 months. “The contract was awarded based on an open and competitive procurement route under the Interim Manager Framework.
The Scottish Government said: “The International Engagement Manager role is focused on reviewing how the government engages with the Scottish diaspora community, as part of our work to refresh the Government’s International Framework.

“Individuals procured through the interim frameworks are employees of the relevant supplier – they are not employed by the government.
“The rate of pay is a matter for the supplier.
“Ministers had no involvement in interviewing or approving this appointment.
“Any such suggestion [of cronyism] is unfounded – people are deployed in such posts on the basis of proven ability and experience.”