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Last Updated: Saturday, 18 September, 2004, 11:37 GMT 12:37 UK
Civil servants in Holyrood probe
John Elvidge
John Elvidge apologised for mistakes made by civil servants
Scotland's top civil servant is to ask an independent investigator to rule on whether his staff should face action over the Holyrood building project.

John Elvidge wants the Civil Service Commission to decide if civil servants are guilty of disciplinary offences.

It follows Lord Fraser's findings that officials made "catastrophically expensive" decisions without proper reference to ministers.

Mr Elvidge apologised on Wednesday for mistakes made by officials.

He said that there were points during the project when officials "fell short of the standards which we expect of ourselves".

We believe it is becoming a bit of a witch hunt, not by Mr Elvidge, but by those who seem to want a head to roll
Jim Caldwell
FDA union
The Civil Service Commission, based in London, will have to decide whether civil servants were partly to blame for the new Holyrood building running years behind schedule and hundreds of millions of pounds over budget.

Mr Elvidge said: "We will learn any further lessons which we can take from the Fraser report and press on with developing and changing.

"The Philips inquiry into BSE provided a model for learning from past mistakes, and following the process used after that, I am considering inviting the Civil Service Commission to investigate and recommend whether any disciplinary proceedings should be started."

Union officials have warned that civil servants are in danger of becoming scapegoats.

Parties divided

Jim Caldwell, Scottish Secretary of the First Division Association, the union for civil servants said: "We believe it is becoming a bit of a witch hunt, not by the permanent secretary (Mr Elvidge), but by those who seem to want a head to roll."

Opposition parties seem divided by the move. Independent MSP Margo MacDonald said: "I welcome Mr Elvidge's willingness to see there might even have been some shortfall in the quality of information and back up that Donald Dewar was given for example in the early days of this project."

But Annabel Goldie of the Scottish Conservatives said that ultimate responsibility did not lie with civil servants.

The party's deputy leader said: "This doesn't get away from the fundamental question as far as the public's concerned which is who is responsible?"

Mr Elvidge has agreed to First Minister Jack McConnell's demands for civil service reform.

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