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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 September, 2004, 18:58 GMT 19:58 UK
Civil service boss's Fraser vow
Holyrood report
Civil servants came in for criticism in the report
Scotland's top civil servant has apologised for the mistakes made by officials during the Holyrood project.

The Scottish Executive's permanent secretary, John Elvidge, has also agreed to the first minister's demands for civil service reform.

Mr Elvidge said there were points where officials "fell short of the standards which we expect of ourselves".

However, he said the service had already learned lessons and would adapt to further change.

Lord Fraser said officials made "catastrophically expensive" decisions without proper reference to ministers and called for a review of the way major public projects are handled in the future.

'Different organisation'

Mr Elvidge said: "Lord Fraser has confirmed previous findings by the auditor general that there were points in the process at which civil servants fell short of the standards which we expect of ourselves and which ministers and the public are entitled to expect of us.

"Since the post-devolution Scottish Executive replaced the pre-devolution Scottish Office much has changed. We are a very different organisation now.

John Elvidge
John Elvidge: considering disciplinary implications
"Many of the people are different, we have different ways of working and, above all, a changing culture adapted to the needs of post-devolution Scotland.

"We have a duty to ensure that we are an outward-looking organisation which reflects the priorities and values of the people we serve and that every pound of public money is spent wisely."

He added that he would consider whether there was any basis for disciplinary action against any individual.

"I need to consider that judgement within the framework of employment law just as the chief executive of any organisation would do," he said.

Meanwhile, Sir Muir Russell, the former permanent secretary to the Scottish Office and later the Scottish Executive, said he was surprised about how his performance had been portrayed.

I repudiate utterly any suggestion that I was responsible for misleading Donald Dewar
Sir Muir Russell
Former permanent secretary
During a news conference at the Scottish Land Court, Lord Fraser said Sir Muir was "technically" responsible.

"Clearly the top man was Sir Muir Russell - there was a number of very sharp criticisms made of him in the Scottish Parliament, and I respectfully adopt their recommendations," he said.

Sir Muir said he had sought to explain and defend the decisions taken by those to whom he had delegated responsibility for implementing the political decisions taken.

He added: "I draw particular attention to the statement (in the report) - 'He would not appear to have been engaged in the calculation that led to the non-reporting of the cost-consultants, risk estimates to the late Donald Dewar and was not personally to blame.'

"It is therefore surprising that he should have commented, as he reportedly did at the press conference, and I repudiate utterly any suggestion that I was responsible for misleading Donald Dewar."

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