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\”Think-tank calls for abolition of almost all Scottish quangos\” – Herald

By Brian Currie

Billions of pounds would be saved and Government ministers would become more accountable if almost all of Scotland\’s 115 quangos were abolished.

The claim was made today by independent political think-tank Reform Scotland, which says the organisations\’ functions should be brought back in house to Government or replaced by fully independent bodies.

The proposal would mean the end for bodies such as Scottish Enterprise and VistScotland, whose effectiveness has been frequently questioned.

Reform Scotland argues that quangos operate in a "no man\’s land", being neither fully accountable to the public through ministers of fully independent of Government.

Director Geoff Mawdsley said: "This creates a lack of openness and accountabliity, whihc is not conductive to good governance."

Other organisations, such as the National Museums of Scotland, would become fully independent and have to negotiate their own public funding under the recommendations.

Scotland\’s main political parties have all pledged a "bonfire of the quangos", an issue raised in The Herald\’s Reshaing Scotland campaign.

Mr Mawdsley accused politicians of taking a "piecmeal" approach to cutting quangos, quasi non-governmental organisations that are financed by the Government but act independently of it.

He claimed one of the main disadvantages of handing over so much power to non-elected quangos was that when something goes wrong "ministers are given a way out".

"In other words they can shift responsibility and when that happens democracy automatically suffers," Mr Mawdsley said.

Reform Scotland\’s report, Democratic Power, says the Scottish Government spendt more than £13 billion on quangos last year – more than 40% of its annual budget.  The NHS accounted for almost three-quarters of the total, but £3.5bn was spent on other quangos.

The report showed that in September last year there were 162 national public sector organisations in Scotland, of whihc 115 were qunagos.

Although there are fewer since devolution, the number of staff they employ rose from 9,900 in 1999 to almost 14,900 in 2008.

The figure does not include the people employed by public corporations or the NHS.

Mr Mawdsley said mnost quangos, apart from tribunals such as teh Children\’s panel, should cease to exist altogether.

He said: "In respect of each body, a decision will need to be taken as to whether its functionc could be transfered back to exitsing Government departments reporting directly to a minister or turned into a geuninely autonomous body.

"There should also be a presumption in favour of functions being performed by local authorities, where appropriate, to ensure accountability to local communities."