The failure of the Scottish Government to appoint a Chief Executive for the planned new South of Scotland Enterprise Agency (SOSE) should not stop the momentum towards the setting up of the new Agency, according to South Scotland MSP and Scottish Labour’s Rural Economy Spokesperson Colin Smyth.

The news that the Government’s selection panel did not appoint a Chief Executive following recent interviews was revealed in response to a Parliamentary Question form Colin Smyth.

According to the reply from Fergus Ewing, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Economy, although the recruitment campaign for the post began on 14 August 2019 with a closing date for applications four weeks later, following final interviews on 22 October 2019, “the selection panel did not feel that the potential candidates were able to demonstrate that they met the breadth of the requirements for this important role. We will therefore not be appointing a candidate from this recruitment round”.

As a result the Cabinet Secretary “intend(s) to appoint an interim Chief Executive from within the Scottish Government and its agencies whose role will be to focus on what is required over the next 12 months to establish the agency on a firm footing”.

South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth said, “It’s a blow that the Scottish Government have failed to appoint a Chief Executive for the new Agency and there’s a real irony that one of issues many organisations in the south of Scotland raise, is not being able to recruit”.

“Appointing a temporary interim Chief Executive from within the Scottish Government is far from ideal. However, I hope in the long term it may it work in favour of the new Agency as the skills required for someone to run the Agency may well be different to the person setting it up, so new people may come forward when the permanent post is advertised. Whoever is appointed must ensure that the new Agency is rooted in the South and focused on local solutions to the economic challenges we face in our area not simply what the Government wants them to do”.

Meanwhile the Scottish Government will begin the process of advertising for members of the new Agency’s board later this month, with a view to appointing the first members before the end of the year. A selections panel including the SOSE Chair Designate, Professor Russel Griggs will make recommendations to Government Ministers on who the new Board members should be based on criteria set out in the South of Scotland Enterprise Bill.

Colin Smyth added, “It is crucial that the appointment of board members is an open and transparent process. If the Agency is going to succeed, its Board needs a breadth of members from different sectors and communities across the South of Scotland and it must have the respect and confidence of the local businesses and organisations who ultimately the Agency is being set up to support”.

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