Three commissioners and the chair of a Scottish Government poverty body have quit.
The Poverty and Inequality Commission was established by the Child Poverty (Scotland) Act 2017 to advise the Government on measures to improve the lives of the worst off in the country and close the gap between the richest and poorest.
But in letters to the Social Justice and Social Security Committee last month – released on Monday – three commissioners: Linda Bamford, Shona Stephen and deputy chair Lindsay Graham, resigned from the body.
In the letters, all three of which were exactly the same, the commissioners said: “The last few weeks have been an extremely stressful and anxious period as I and my fellow commissioners were not aware that our chair had nominated us for reappointment.
“Our engagement with the chair to recover this difficult situation has resulted in a loss of confidence and trust in the chair.
“After several subsequent meetings with our sponsor team, and due to the professionally compromised and untenable situation we were put in, my fellow commissioners and I tendered our resignations to the Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice on August 9 2023.”
It is not clear what caused the relationship breakdown that led to the resignations, but the commissioners said they were not notified the chair – Bill Scott – had nominated them for reappointment.
Despite the desire of the trio to leave the body immediately, Social Justice Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said they must complete their three-month, notice period to ensure the body does not fall below the legally required membership numbers.
Responding to the resignation, the minister said: “I appreciate the situation that has arisen is stressful for all concerned and am aware that sponsor officials have been mindful to emphasise the importance of the wellbeing of all parties in the discussions they have had with you on these issues and have offered mediation and support to resolve.
“Given I cannot act in a way that puts Scottish Ministers in breach of the law by accepting your early resignation, I am, of course, keen to ensure that appropriate support is put in place to enable all to participate and balance wellbeing.”
Within two days of the resignation letters being sent to Ms Somerville, Mr Scott had written to say he would be stepping down as chair on health grounds.
Responding to his resignation, the minister said: “I am sorry to hear you are resigning on health grounds.
“Your health should come above all else and I hope that you can make a full recovery and wish you well.
“I am sorry that we are losing you as chair of the commission but, in the circumstances, this is to be expected and I am grateful that you have indicated that you are willing to serve your three-month notice period to ensure a smooth transition for the commission.
“Your notice period will run from August 12 to November 11, 2023.
“I am grateful for all that you have delivered during your time as chair, particularly the sensitivity with which you have engaged with the very real challenges that have faced far too many in society over recent years and the particular impact this has had on those living in poverty and with other inequalities.”
News of the resignations has come as the First Minister is due to lay out his plans for the next year, with a heavy focus expected to be on his desire to alleviate poverty.