Scotland's chief civil servant refuses to appear before committee

The Finance and Public Administration Committee is 'extremely disappointed at the discourtesy shown' by Leslie Evans.

Scotland’s permanent secretary Leslie Evans refuses to appear before Government finance committee Getty Images

Scotland’s most senior civil servant has refused to appear before a Holyrood committee before she leaves her job later this month.

The Finance and Public Administration Committee is “extremely disappointed at the discourtesy shown” by Leslie Evans’ “failure to engage”, its convener said.

The committee first approached the permanent secretary in October 2021 seeking her appearance to reflect on her time in office.

But on Monday, her office wrote to the committee’s convener Kenneth Gibson MSP to say she would not attend as she left her role at the end of the year and is on a “period of leave” before she retires on March 31.

Gibson said repeated assurances had been given that the session was not intended to revisit the events surrounding her role in the Government’s handling of harassment complaints made against former first minister Alex Salmond.

Last year, a committee of MSPs released a report which said the Government’s handling of two women’s complaints had been “seriously flawed”.

Salmond won a pay-out of more than £500,000 in 2019 following a court battle with the Government.

Gibson said the committee was interested in Evans’ “own reflections” of her time in office for the benefit of informing “future scrutiny”.

In a letter to Evans, the convener said the committee did not accept that her period of leave exempts her from giving evidence stating it was in the public interest for her to do so.

“We are therefore extremely disappointed at the discourtesy shown to the Parliament by your failure to engage directly with the Committee at any stage regarding our invitation, despite our best efforts,” the letter read.

“Given the time that has elapsed since our original approach to you and the response of 7 March, we do not however intend to waste any more of our time pursuing this matter.”

The office of the permanent secretary said that as Evans is “no longer a post-holder within the Scottish Government and is not able to speak on behalf of or represent the views of Scottish Ministers”.

It said other serving officials and ministers were ready to provide evidence instead, including her replacement John Paul Marks.

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