MacKay Hannah

Scottish Government and Public Services: The challenges and opportunities of more powers and less money


Marco Biagi MSP

Minister for Local Government & Community Empowerment, Scottish Government

Born in 1982, Marco Biagi was raised in Dunbartonshire until moving to the east coast in 2000.

He was educated at the Universities of St Andrews, California-Berkeley, Oxford and Glasgow.

Prior to his election as MSP for Edinburgh Central, Marco held a senior research role with the SNP Parliamentary Group.

Marco was appointed as Minister for Local Government and Community Empowerment in November 2014.


Lynda Gauld

Director, Baccus Consulting

Prior to establishing Baccus Consulting, Lynda was Head of External Affairs at Pfizer with responsibility for all aspects of External Affairs for Scotland and Northern Ireland. During her ten years with Pfizer, Lynda managed a number of highly successful partnership relationships and sought to identify new approaches to policy development in her field. She has obtained considerable experience in managing issues and corporate change.

Before working in the pharmaceutical sector with Pfizer, Lynda spent twenty years in the NHS as a nurse and a manager and three years as Regional Manager of the Institute of Health Services Managers (now Institute of Healthcare Managers) and has a strong working knowledge of the NHS and the public sector, its successes and challenges.

Picture of Fiona Killen

Fiona Killen

Partner and Head of Parliamentary and Public Law Unit, Anderson Strathern

Fiona Killen is a partner and Head of the Parliamentary and Public Law unit at Anderson Strathern. She specialises in freedom of information and data protection law, governance and regulatory matters, human rights, statutory interpretation and legislative drafting.

She has acted for appellants and respondents in respect of statutory appeals in the Inner House of the Court of Session and has also acted for public bodies in judicial review proceedings.

Fiona has advised the promoters of four private railway bills on obtaining consent to multi-million pound schemes and has drafted subordinate legislation for a number of bodies. She has experience of working within the Scottish arliament, the UK parliament and the US senate.

Fiona co-authored the Scotland chapter in the 7th edition of The International Comparative Legal Guide to: Environment Law; published by Global Legal Group Ltd, London. 

Fiona is recognised as a 'Leader in their field' by leading legal directory Chambers UK 2015 for Administrative & Public Law (Glasgow, Edinburgh & Surrounds) and Parliamentary & Public Affairs (Glasgow, Edinburgh & Surrounds). Fiona is also recognised as a 'Leading Individual' in Parliamentary and Public Affairs law in Scotland by the Legal Directory the Legal 500.

Dr Robert Black CBE

Former Auditor General for Scotland and Chair, Housing and Wellbeing Commission

Robert Black stepped down as Auditor General for Scotland at the end of June 2012, a post which he had held since 2000. Dr Black was the first Auditor General for Scotland, appointed by HM The Queen under the Scotland Act which brought into being the Scottish Parliament.

In this role he was the accountable officer, and therefore in effect chief executive, of Audit Scotland. and was responsible for the statutory audit and reporting on all expenditure devolved to the Scottish Parliament, with the exception of expenditure by local authorities, under the Scotland Act 1998.

Between 1995 and 2000, Dr Black was Controller of Audit with the Accounts Commission with responsibility for the external auditing and reporting on all expenditure by local authorities and NHS bodies in Scotland.

Prior to this, he was a local authority chief executive for 10 years, first with Stirling District Council (1985-90) and then with Tayside Regional Council (1990-1995).

His earlier career (1975-1985), was in policy planning and research with Strathclyde Regional Council, Nottinghamshire County Council and Glasgow City Council.

Since his retirement from the post of Auditor General, Dr Black has been appointed to the British Library Board, joined the Court of Edinburgh University as a lay member and become a public interest member on the Council of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.

Alan Trench

Devolution Expert and Research Fellow, Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law

Alan is research fellow at the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law in London, where he has latterly been working on a major review of devolution’s constitutional implications for the UK as a whole published in May 2015.  He has previously worked at the Constitution Unit at University College London, the University of Edinburgh and the University of Ulster, and also taught at Cardiff University, and occasionally writes the blog 'Devolution Matters'.  His work on the Institute for Public Policy Research’s ‘Devo More’ project heavily influenced the Smith Commission’s plans for further devolution in the wake of the Scottish referendum.  He has advised or given evidence to numerous Parliamentary and legislative committees around the UK, and was specialist adviser to the Commons Welsh Affairs Committee in the 2010-15 Parliament.

John McLaren

Political Economist, Fiscal Affairs Scotland

2002 to date Independent Economist Researcher, and since 2004 affiliated to CPPR. Honorary Professor Public Policy, University of Glasgow Business School since 2011.

1999-2001 Special Adviser in the Policy Unit of the Scottish Executive for the First Minister of Scotland.

1999 Head of Policy Research at the Scottish Labour Party prior to the 1999 election for the Scottish Parliament.

1989–1998 Civil Servant (Economic Adviser at the Scottish Office government department)

1985–1990 Civil Servant (Economic Adviser at H.M. Treasury)

1984–1986 Researcher in Economics Department at the University of Manchester Qualifications B.A. Economics and Social Studies, University of Manchester.  

Political Status John was a civil servant at both H.M. Treasury (1985-1988) and at the Scottish Office (1989-1998). During this period he had no political affiliations. John worked as a researcher for the Labour Party for a year leading up to the first election (1999) of the new Scottish Parliament, being subsequently appointed as a Special Adviser by Donald Dewar, and then by Henry McLeish, for the period up to 2001. John was a member of the Labour Party from 2000 to 2005. In 2006 John was hired by the Labour Party on a consultancy basis to undertake work leading up to the 2007 election. Since 2002 John has worked as an independent economic consultant and member of CPPR. Since 2005 he has had no political affiliations.  

Professor Richard Kerley

Professor of Management, Queen Margaret University

Richard is currently Professor of Management at Queen Margaret University College, where he has been  since January 2003.   He was previously at the University of Edinburgh and  the Scottish Local Authorities Management Centre, University of Strathclyde.  He has also been a visiting scholar at Yale University and is a visiting professor at ITM Mumbai and EASB Singapore.

Before  entering academic life Richard worked in advertising, hospitality and in prison education.  Richard was a councillor in Edinburgh for 8 years where he chaired two committees.  He also chaired the Scottish Executive's Working Party on Renewing Local Democracy, the report of which was published in July 2000 and which was legislated for in June 2004 as the Local Governance Act.

Richard is the author of various books, research papers, academic journals and numerous articles in the quality print media.  His most recent publications include a book chapter on performance in public services and journal articles on the management of urban car parking as an example of effective  practice in public management and Single Outcome Agreements in local government.  He also writes regularly for the quality and trade press and contributes to TV, radio and online news/current affairs.

Councillor David O'Neill

President, COSLA

Councillor David O’Neill has represented the people of Irvine for the past 32 years and served as Leader of North Ayrshire Council for three terms between 1999 and 2012.

During his time as a North Ayrshire Councillor, Mr O’Neill also served as a member of NHS Ayrshire & Arran Health Board and as Vice-Chair of Scottish Enterprise Ayrshire.

Prior to local government re-organisation in 1996, he was a member of Cunninghame District Council and chaired the Environmental Health Committee and the Economic Development Committee.

Councillor O’Neill was elected President of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) in June 2012.

He has no sporting interests and spends far too much time engrossed in local and national politics.

Councillor O’Neill worked in the knitwear industry for many years and was a director of a small manufacturing company for 12 years.

Alison Payne

Research Director, Reform Scotland

Alison graduated from Edinburgh University with a degree in Economics and Politics in 2001. She began her career within the Scottish Conservative MSPs’ Research Unit, going on to spend four years as Head of Research. She later went on to become Political Adviser to Annabel Goldie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Group of MSPs. This role included acting as adviser to the Scottish Conservative Policy Advisory Group which was independent of the party.

Before joining Reform Scotland, Alison Payne was a senior account manager with PPS, which provides lobbying, communications and consultation advice to the property and development industry.

Alison is married with two children and was a Girl Guide leader for over 10 years prior to the birth of her second child.

Robin Baker

Director, Grant Thornton

Over the past 25 years, I have developed a comprehensive knowledge and understanding of the public sector, with a wide range of clients across the sector in fire, local government and with NHS bodies. I head up our fire sector focus, with a genuine interest in the wider sector and contribution the fire service could make to community safety and health improvement.

I am regularly invited to speak at national fire conferences and I also chair our high-level summits which examine key issues facing fire services in the UK and the consideration that should be taken surrounding new legislation. I am proud to be at the heart of creating thought leadership for the fire sector, bringing to together insight and trends together to support organisations to develop and grow.

I am a big believer in passing on expertise and helping others so I am currently involved with the firms coach development programme, which provides me with the relevant skill sets to be able to ask my clients great questions and develop strong relationships.

Outside of work I am a lifelong Bristol City supporter (some would say that is poor judgement but I beg to differ) and enjoy spending time supporting my two boys play cricket and football.

Ewan Aitken

Chief Executive, Edinburgh Cyrenians

A former Convener of Education and Leader of Edinburgh City Council and CoSLA spokesperson on Education, Ewan also has 30 years experience working in the third sector. In 1995, whilst working as a parish minister in Edinburgh he founded the Ripple Project, a diverse community action organisation that is still going strong. 

Ewan is very committed to issues of social justice, especially challenging the stigmatisation of the disadvantaged. He believes that poverty is not simply a matter of financial instability but one of inner well-being; poverty grinds the soul and well as the body. Cyrenians' philosophy of walking with those who are struggling, and sticking with them when they stumble, is what first attracted him to the organisation. He believes that by the living out of our obligation to our neighbour and to the stranger, each of us will also find what we truly need to live well ourselves.

Ewan is a director of the Edinburgh International Science Festival, the Ripple Project and Eco-Congregation Scotland, and Chair of the National Prison Visitor Centre Steering Group, the Scottish Labour Party's Social Justice Sounding Board and the grants committee of BBC Children in Need Scotland. He's also an advisor to Circle and is a member of the CoSLA Commission on Strengthening Local Democracy. 

He joined Cyrenians in May 2014 after 6 years as head of the Church of Scotland's Church and Society department, which helps the Church engage in social, political and ethical issues. He's a member of the Iona Community and a season ticket holder for the Royal Lyceum Theatre. His extra curricular activity includes watching sport (especially rugby), and vegetarian cooking; but most of his leisure time is spent with his family.

@EwanAitken Cyrenians1968

Gillian Thompson OBE

Judicial Complaints Reviewer for Scotland

Deep experience in delivering the policies of the Scottish Government including development of devolved and reserved policies, leading legislative and organisational change, project and programme management, corporate and financial accountability, influencing and negotiation.  Full working knowledge and experience of Scottish political scene. Well regarded reputation for delivering organisational strategy and expertise in working at Board level as chair and member.

Current Activities:

The Judicial Complaints Reviewer
Trustee, Stepchange Debt Charity Scotland
Non Executive Director of Registry Trust Ltd, a London based UK not for profit company providing services for the Ministry of Justice
Scottish Ambassador, Tomorrow’s People, a UK charity which sources work placements for 16-24s from deprived areas
Active interest in shared services in central government public bodies.
Independent Assessor Public Appointments (Justice)
Conference Chairing
Independent assessor during the recent review by the Audit and Risk Management Committee of Scottish Natural Heritage.
Previously: Deputy Chair of English Speaking Union Scotland

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Very often it's the creative thinking that takes place across organisations and between sectors that leads to the best results. One Public Sector Expo brings people together to share their insights on how this spirit of collaboration is transforming Scotland's public services, and has on display some inspirational examples of practical action that is improving people's lives.

John Swinney MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth,
Scottish Government

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