Scotland’s independent think tank
Scotland’s independent think tank

Quango bosses paid more than First Minister

New Reform Scotland research highlights further evidence of the “accountability deficit”

One third of all Scottish Government spending is allocated to quangos whilst Reform Scotland research highlights that 39 of 58 quango bosses are earning more than a Cabinet Secretary. The information is contained in the think tank’s Quango Bulletin released today (Sunday 29th December) – download a copy below.

Reform Scotland, the independent, non-party think-tank, has revealed new research showing the size of expenditure on chief executive salaries in Scotland’s quangos. Total funding for quangos now amounts to almost £12bn, approximately one third of the entire Scottish Government budget – however, quango expenditure remains largely beyond public scrutiny and Reform Scotland has been a consistent critic of this lack of accountability and transparency.

In its Reform Scotland Briefing, released today (Sunday 29th December), chief executive salaries have been collected for 58 of 72 quangos, and the emerging picture highlights a significant disparity between quango salaries and ministerial salaries.

The research highlights:

  • 19 earn at least as much or more than the First Minister;
  • 39 earn at least as much or more than a Cabinet Secretary;
  • 48 earn as much as or more than a Scottish Government minister;
  • The CEO of Scottish Enterprise has a salary double that of the Finance Secretary;
  • The CEO of every health body earns as much as or more than the Health Secretary.

These salaries may be justified, but the organisations who choose to pay them cannot be held to account for those decisions – indeed, the same could be said for all spending decisions made by quangos.  We believe that the way in which such bodies operate is neither accountable nor transparent.

Commenting, Reform Scotland’s Research Director Alison Payne said:

“It may well be the case that the salary for a particular Chief Executive is justified, although, it is difficult to argue that any public sector salary should be higher than that of the person running Scotland, the First Minister.

“However, the key problem is the use of quangos which are neither fully democratically accountable nor fully independent of government leading to a lack of transparency and accountability over their activities, including the level of salaries paid.”

Reform Scotland believes that most quangos should either be re-integrated into government departments, meaning that ministers would then be accountable for their decisions, or else moved to independent bodies which would contract transparently with government, with the public holding government accountable for performance against those contracts.

Alison Payne continued:

“Whilst there have been efforts made by the Scottish government to cut the number of quangos, they have failed because they have been piecemeal and focussed on the wrong target.  They have looked at the functions of the different bodies and tried to simplify or merge them to reduce waste and bureaucracy.  This ignores the real problem.  It is not what quangos do, but the way that they do it that is the fundamental problem.

“Scotland needs to end its love affair with quangos and build democratic accountability through transparency.  This would introduce greater clarity and openness into the political process in Scotland and make those who are spending taxpayers’ money more accountable to the people.”


1.   Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at

2. A copy of the full Bulletin can be downloaded below.

3. Salary information for Scotland’s quango chief executives is collated from the Scottish Government’s National Public Bodies Directory and is set out in the table included in the bulletin.

4. Note that for Scottish Water the salary range for 2011/12 was £350,000 to £400,000.  As this was so much higher than any other quango, and differed to the information on the organisation’s website, Reform Scotland contacted Scottish Water.  Although it did not give us figures for 2011/12, we were informed that the pay range at November 2013 was £235,000 to £240,000.  We have used the figures Scottish Water provided us with.


Quango Salaries