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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-18995: Willie Rennie (North East Fife)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 21 September 2018

To ask the Scottish Government, further to the answer to question S5W-18428 by Kate Forbes on 13 September 2018, for what reason the number of contractors has increased by 256% since 2015-16.

Answered by: Kate Forbes 2 October 2018

This is a question for the Keeper of the Registers of Scotland. She advises me that the profile of Registers of Scotland’s staff has changed over the last ten years, in particular since 2012-13. Principally that reflects the fact the organisation terminated its strategic partnership agreement with BT on 30 November 2012 and brought the vast majority of its IT estate back in-house. The outsourcing contract with BT had been in place for 8 years and less than 10 people transferred under TUPE regulations from BT to RoS, resulting in an inevitable lack of existing IT skills within the organisation, therefore, it was necessary to grow our IT capability and capacity quickly. Furthermore, “Designated Day” for the introduction of the 2012 Act was 8 December 2014 and this new legislation required significant work to our IT systems/applications, involving the upgrade of existing systems and the development of new on-line services. With BT no longer contracted to support delivery of this work and the timescales for development and upgrades set by the introduction of the Act, recruitment decisions were taken on the need for and availability of a wide range of IT skills in a fiercely competitive labour market, although we actively sought to recruit people into permanent roles wherever possible and continue to do so.

Additionally, in October 2015, the Deputy First Minister announced that Registers of Scotland should build Scotland’s Land Information Service (ScotLIS) as a digital service that would become the platform of choice for land and property information. Specific IT skills were required in order to meet this demand and therefore contract staff were used at this time to complement our existing workforce and this enabled the successful launch of ScotLIS on 24 October 2017. Had RoS remained in the outsourced contract, the costs would have been higher than our current staffing costs and would not have included development of more new services, such as ScotLIS, or the decommissioning of legacy applications. The majority of contract staff are now involved in the initial development of more new digital services. The use of contractors provides flexibility and scalability aligned to our customer needs. The majority of these staff won’t be required to maintain and improve the services once they are initially built, which makes the use of contract staff rather than permanent staff more appropriate at present.