Ex-theatres chief takes top role at Holyrood

Leslie Evans will become Permanent Secretary. Picture: Contributed
Leslie Evans will become Permanent Secretary. Picture: Contributed
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A FORMER head of arts and entertainment at the city council has been given a top job at the Scottish Government.

Leslie Evans, who was in charge of Edinburgh’s theatres, was appointed by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to replace the controversial Sir Peter Housden, who steps down as Permanent Secretary at the end of next month.

Ms Evans, 56, has been in the civil service since 2000 and is currently the Scottish Government’s director-general learning and justice.

Before joining the civil service, she worked for 20 years in local government in Scotland and England, and served as head of arts and entertainment and assistant director of recreation in Edinburgh, responsible for the Capital’s theatres.

Born in Northern Ireland, she moved to Scotland in 1985 and is married with one son.

She worked for the city council twice, between 1985 and 1987, then from 1989 to 2000.

Within the government, she has also been director of culture, external affairs and tourism and director-general of education. In her new role she will be responsible for around 5000 civil servants.

Ms Sturgeon said: “As the new Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government, Leslie brings a vast amount of experience from across the public sector to the role.

“I look forward to working with Leslie in her new role as Scotland’s most senior civil servant, to deliver outstanding public services and the very best for the people of Scotland.”

Sir Peter announced in January that he would step down in June after five years in post. Ms Evans will take up her new job on July 1.

Sir Peter was accused of “going native” after he wrote in a blog circulated to staff about how the independence referendum debate had left “the status quo . . . lost in the mists of time”.

Opposition politicians lodged official complaints and Liberal Democrat Tavish Scott accused him of “rapidly becoming the chief cheerleader” for independence. But he was cleared of any breach of the civil service code.

Ms Evans said: “It is a privilege for me to undertake this role, following Sir Peter, who is leaving the organisation in such good heart.

“I’m very much looking forward to working closely with my civil service colleagues, our partners in the public, third and private sectors, and the UK government, to meet the challenges and realise the opportunities that lie ahead for Scotland.”

Sir Peter said: “Leslie Evans is an outstanding public servant whose leadership, experience and impact on Scotland and the UK is widely recognised.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com