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Ministers revive search for Scottish Enterprise chair

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Lord Smith was the last chair of Scottish Enterprise, with Steve Dunlop who was CEO (pic:Terry Murden)

Ministers have restarted the search for a chair of Scottish Enterprise more than a year after Lord Smith’s term ended.

The country’s biggest economic development agency initially hoped to have someone in post by May last year, but it is understood a preferred candidate turned it down.

The position which has been vacant since the end of July last year, is now being re-advertised with the hope of having someone in place by 1 April.

Previous incumbents have included Bob Keiller, the former Wood Group chief executive, Crawford Gillies, a management consultant who has sat on the FTSE 100 boards, Sir Ian Robinson, who was CEO of ScottishPower, and Sir Ian Wood, the oil executive.

The role comes with a pay package of £49,224 for 91 days per year, representing a slight increase on the £49,049 advertised last year. That was 10.2% higher than Lord Smith’s remuneration of £44,520.  There is no expectation of a specific weekly commitment. Reasonable expenses incurred will be reimbursed and the appointment is non-pensionable.

The Glasgow-based agency has an annual budget of £264 million and additional income from its investments and property assets.

According to the latest brief, the chair will play “a key role in supporting the CEO and wider organisation to continue the journey of transformational change which is required by the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET)”. That was the strategy introduced by Kate Forbes in March last year aimed at shaping government policy.

However, the absence of a chair at Scottish Enterprise for so long has raised questions about the SNP government’s commitment to both the economy and the agency.

Lord Smith took on the role in August 2019 and the agency’s efforts over most of his tenure were switched heavily towards an administrative role in getting businesses through the various lockdowns. The post is currently occupied by former banker Willie Mackie on an interim basis.

Whoever becomes the next chairman will oversee an agency which has seen its remit diminished, with many of its former roles hived off or re-engineered around other agencies giving it less command over such key areas as skills (now Skills Development Scotland), business advice (Business Gateway), digitisation (Mark Logan and his ‘key’ advisers), and transport and infrastructure (Transport Scotland).

Lord Smith also lost his CEO, Steve Dunlop, who admitted to imposter syndrome and resigned after just two and a half years in the job. He was replaced by Adrian Gillespie, a commercial officer from academia.

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