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Scotland goes its own way

The creation two months ago of the Scottish Office Education and Industry Department was not due to prime ministerial disposition of portfolios but to administrative tidiness.

Civil servants in the SOEID report to different junior ministers in Michael Forsyth's team. Since George Kynoch, MP for Kincardine and Deeside, is responsible to the Secretary of State for Industry, some of the SOEID's officials take instructions from him. Others are responsible to Raymond Robertson, the education minister. At the top, Gerry Wilson, secretary of the department and former secretary of the Education Department, has two political masters (or three if Mr Forsyth is included). But he holds the reins of his department with aplomb since his earlier civil service career included posts in both industry and education. He also had a large say in the review of Scottish Office functions which led to the changes.

The changes stemmed from an internal report on senior management in the Scottish Office. The go-ahead to implement them was given by Mr Forsyth shortly after he took the Scottish Office in the summer Cabinet reshuffle. There was no attempt to link junior ministerial responsibilities to those of civil servants. So the changes in the Scottish Office had a different history from those which created the Department for Education and Employment.

There is another obvious distinction: the SOEID looks after industry, including training, but not employment. Mr Kynoch on the other hand does have responsibility for employment - and officials in the Scottish employment agency work for him.

But the DFEE as a British department also has a role in Scottish employment matters. Businessmen, like educationists interested in links with industry, welcomed the creation of the SOEID - and felt confident that Gerry Wilson would ensure fair treatment for all. However, the arguments advanced south of the border in favour of combining employment and education do not apparently apply in Scotland.

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