Dutton is one of half a dozen associate members. Others include Ivor Sutherland, registrar of the General Teaching Council, David Adams, principal of the Northern College, and Tom McCool, chief executive of Scotvec.
But unlike fellow associates, Dutton has taken the Government shilling by becoming Scottish Office adviser on opting out. Dutton, a genial Geordie, plays down his role which he conducts from his Borders home.
The executive considered banning associates from the main conference. This was deemed unfair to others. To avoid a scene, they opted to allow Dutton in. His presence unsettled some. As one director remarked of a colleague during a drinks party: "He's obviously new. He's talking to Ian Dutton."