Leslie Evans, Scottish Government permanent secretary, reflects on Scotland’s Year of Young People and the challenges of 2019

Written by Civil Service World on 18 December 2018 in Feature

With the end of 2018 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top civil servants to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2019 – and tell us who would turn on their town’s Christmas lights.

Photo: David Anderson

What was your highlight of 2018?

Without doubt it was taking on the role of senior champion during the Scottish Government’s Year of Young People. I have met young people from across Scotland from all walks of life and heard their perspectives, their ambitions, their experience and their desire to be able to influence their lives and their country. I have listened, challenged, championed, celebrated and promoted collaboration to bring about change – and I have loved it. Co-design – bringing young people into policy development early on and with real impact – is something I would encourage all policymakers to embrace. The benefits are plain to see.

What was the hardest part of being a leader in 2018?

I have taken very difficult decisions this year. However, like Whitehall, we have lost some great colleagues in the Scottish Government, well before their time. Writing a card to a six-year-old saying how sorry I was that her mummy had died – that was the toughest by far.

What are the main challenges facing your organisation in the coming year?

Preparing Scotland for EU exit. Brexit brings the “VUCA” concept (leading in a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous world) into sharp focus, and is already making tremendous demands on the Scottish Government and its agencies. However, the Scottish Government has a track record of embracing and delivering change and challenge through devolution, referenda, and deploying and realising new legislative and fiscal powers and responsibilities. Planning, testing and delivery is taking place to ensure the organisation and Scotland is ready for what lies ahead.

Which celebrity or historical figure would you choose to turn on the Christmas lights in your town, and why?

Elsie Inglis – a formidable doctor, suffragist and founder of the Scottish Women’s Hospitals – to shine a light (or many lights!) on her tenacious fight for equality and progress.

“Brexit brings the ‘VUCA’ concept into sharp focus, and is already making tremendous demands on the Scottish Government and its agencies”

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