Mr Pignatelli, chief executive of Learndirect Scotland, astonished his audience by calling for an alternative system of running schools that liberated them from the centralist hand of politically motivated councils.
Reflecting on his Strathclyde years in the early and mid-1990s, he confessed: "I am guilty of colluding in that game and saying that's the way it's got to be."
Peter Peacock, Education Minister, had earlier repeated his demand for authorities to increase budgetary devolution to at least 90 per cent of spending.
Mr Pignatelli's own evidence at the time of local government reform in the mid-1990s was against setting up 32 separate authorities, each with a bureaucratic education structure. His own colleagues were "polishing up their CVs ready to staff the new authorities and politicans were thinking, 'I'll have a chairmanship or leadership', but my report was that this was a waste of public money".
Mr Pignatelli, speaking ahead of this week's education directors'
conference in Peebles, said: "I cannot believe what salaries education directors are getting now. Why did that happen? Because they have to get more than you. What about job-sizing?"
But the former director, whose salary was more than pound;90,000, admitted he had been too interventionist when he was in charge of Strathclyde.
Heads, he now accepted, knew far more about their schools than the directorate ever could. "Not only did I want to regulate how you behave but how you thought," he said.