"Ministers at Holyrood finally admitted last night that the Scottish Executive's much-vaunted efficiency drive was nowhere near as tough as its equivalent south of the border. Tom McCabe, finance minister, told MSPs some key savings targets set in Scotland were less than half as taxing as those laid down for Whitehall departments. The admission, which came as Holyrood debated next year's budget, shattered previous executive boasts that they would exceed Whitehall in its efficiency drive, which is supposed to plough £1.2bn from back office work across the public sector into services, including nursing and teaching, by 2008.
The debate also saw Des McNulty, Labour convener of Holyrood's finance committee, attack the executive's "bean counters". He said there was a growing army of bureaucrats, and singled out the "burgeoning office of the permanent secretary", the head of the civil service in Scotland.
Opposition parties said the executive's efficiency drive had been exposed as empty political posturing. In September last year, Mr McConnell said he would "go further" than the English review on government efficiency savings written by Sir Peter Gershon, an aim echoed by Mr McCabe."
The efficiency savings hoo-ha represents something of a pattern: bold and ambitious announcement, subsequent failure to deliver, pretence that everything is on track, then eventually ignominious climbdown. And no-one will be held accountable. The Executive - Ministers and senior civil servants - must do better.
We will return to the matter of the burgeoning office of the Permanent Secretary on a future occasion. But anyone who wants to see an illustration of its expansion need only consult here (although - with typical efficiency - the site does not appear to have been updated since March 2005).