A survey by the Scottish Review reveals that, despite repeated assurances of greater diversity in appointments to official boards, public life in Scotland is still dominated by a tiny circle.
The survey found a remarkable extent of interconnection and overlap. Of the 212 seats looked at in the survey, no fewer than 81 (38%) are occupied by people with more than one public appointment. On five key national bodies – Care Inspectorate, Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Scottish Police Authority, Scottish Social Services Council, and VisitScotland – a majority of the board are picking up taxpayer-funded fees from at least one other public body.
The article looks at three particularly busy people in quango land to illustrate their point.
The article concludes, "These facts make a mockery of the Scottish Government's periodic undertakings to enlarge the number of people taking part in public life. The truth is that the same names crop up in list after list and that some have been around so long that they have become semi-permanent fixtures, moving seamlessly from one quango to another."
UNISON Scotland has long argued that we should be bringing greater democracy to public bodies. It is often argued that the benefits of appointments is that they bring new people and expertise that might not wish to engage in elections. This looks like a pretty weak argument in light of this research.