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Scottish ICE on track for the future


ONE OF of Scotland's most respected political and business journalists, Kevin Aitkin, commented in 1999, as the new Scottish Parliament was being established, that devolution is not a single event. 'It is, and will continue to be, a developing process.'

This thought is strong as I look back over the past year as ICE's first executive secretary for Scotland. When I joined the Institution early in 2000, I likened the role of the executive secretary to that of a bridge-builder creating links of understanding and policy with a very complex range of other organisations and individuals to achieve our aims.

I thought of bridge building when the two Scottish Associations held their second Fellows' lunch recently. Though this was a comparatively informal networking occasion in relaxed surroundings, we made sure we had a specific theme. With the general election looming, we chose to launch Agenda for the Future in Scotland. BBC Scotland journalist and commentator Kevin MacDonald was invited to give us his take on the way forward within the changing Scottish structure.

His advice was to concentrate on solid achievement, rather than be drawn into soundbites which rely on the three C's for impact - catastrophe, conflict and confrontation.

It is extremely good advice, and provides a platform to look back on the past 12 months of an ICE Scottish office and the 'developing process' of the first paragraph.

In many ways, the launch pad was the publication last summer of Vision 2000: the ICE in Scotland', which identified a need to respond to the implications of devolution for Scotland's policy, environment and structures.

Importantly it also emphasised how the Institution itself is changing, developing and modernising to look at new ways of delivering services to members and new techniques to raise the profile of the profession and the ICE with core influencers.

Identifying these core influencers is vital and so far the ICE in Scotland has assembled a database of nearly 1000 key names, from Scottish MPs and Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) to institutions such as the CBI.

That has had benefits for the circulation of Icebreaker, the public affairs bulletin produced regularly by the two Scottish Associations. Encouragingly, matters raised in the last three issues have led to formal questions being tabled by MSPs.

These relate to the Scottish Executive's procurement policies, the decline in secondary pupils taking science and maths and safety standards in public car parks.

The target for Icebreaker is that every MSP and Scottish MP will await the next edition confident it help identify key structural and environmental issues and will provide expert advice.

Direct contact with politicians and political structures also requires continuing day-to-day input. This enhances the Institution's role as voice of the profession on key issues and places it firmly at the centre of debate.

One consequence has been to ensure that the ICE in Scotland is central to Scottish Executive consultation documents with pertinent, professional and authoritative responses.

Potentially one of the most important developments has been the restructuring of the Scottish Construction Industry Group (SCIG). This recognised forum for the industry and an established direct link to the corridors of power has, perhaps, been a sleeping giant of late.

Now reorganised into operational, subject-specific colleges, it offers a revitalised opportunity for the overall construction industry and the civil engineering profession to make their case to government.

There is not room here for details of everything which has been done, the ongoing work with other institutions, the improved pattern of ICE spokespeople, the plans to establish a new major national conference and other joint events with sister institutions. But I have given a flavour of our moves toward that 'developing process' which is the rapidly changing environment we have to respond to.

Finally, it is vital to ensure the engagement and the involvement of our members, the profile of the Institution and the authority of the Institution.

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