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EDITIONS
Sunday, 16 June, 2002, 17:29 GMT 18:29 UK
McConnell kept in dark over advisers
Scottish Parliament chamber
The work of the parliament has grown since devolution
First Minister Jack McConnell has entered the row over a Scottish Executive plan to employ 40 special advisers to aid policy development.

Mr McConnell is demanding an explanation as to why he was kept in the dark about the plan, which could cost about 2m annually.

Opposition parties attacked the proposal when it emerged on Friday and Mr McConnell is understood to be "unhappy" about it.

The first minister's opponents linked the job adverts to him and Scottish Labour, but it emerged on Sunday that Mr McConnell only learned of the recruitment drive late on Friday after returning from meetings in Jersey.

First Minister Jack McConnell
Jack McConnell knew nothing about the jobs

Mr McConnell's spokeswoman confirmed he was now seeking answers from senior civil servants.

But at the same time, an executive spokeswoman defended the plans, insisting only eight of the 40 jobs - with salaries between 35,000 and 45,000 - were new posts.

The Scottish National Party raised concerns about the recruitment of advisers at the same time as the Labour Party is writing its manifesto for next year's Holyrood elections.

Scottish Tory leader David McLetchie said the money would be better spent recruiting emergency service staff.

Mr McLetchie added: "If Jack McConnell wants new policy ideas, and he certainly needs them, then he can have a copy of our manifesto for half price."

The first minister is said to have been angered that the plan was portrayed as a McConnell initiative, when he knew nothing about it.

But Mr McConnell's spokeswoman said he had no plans to comment publicly on the matter.

David McLetchie
David McLetchie said the cash could be better spent

She said: "The normal policy for recruitment of civil servants is that it's not something the first minister necessarily would be informed of.

"But because it's quite a large number at once, I think he might have expected to have known about the advertisement and the timing of that.

"He is asking for an explanation from the civil service management and once he's got that, he will be able to comment, but not before."

The executive said the advisers are needed to deal with the increased workload since devolution, including new policy initiatives on justice, fisheries and European affairs.

A spokeswoman said: "Only eight of the jobs advertised are for newly-created posts.

"The other 80% is for vacancies which have emerged as a result of retirements or people moving on."

The executive said the advisers' work would include analysing and developing policies as well as briefing and advising ministers.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Liv Casben reports
"The new staff will cost the taxpayer up to 2m-a-year"
See also:

14 Jun 02 | Scotland
14 May 02 | Scotland
21 Jun 01 | Scotland
25 Mar 01 | Scotland
27 Feb 01 | Scotland
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