I'm Stressed out, Admits Enterprise Chief ;Trials of a Life in the Economic Spotlight; Did Political Intrigue Force Top-Paid Civil Servant out of a Job?

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Byline: EDDIE BARNES

SCOTLAND'S enterprise chief explained why he quit his [pounds sterling]200,000a- year job yesterday following three-andahalf years of economic turmoil and political backstabbing.

Robert Crawford blamed his departure on stress and said the challenge of running Scottish Enterprise had become too much.

His time as chief executive of the [pounds sterling]500million agency coincided with a disastrous downturn in the Scottish economy, which plunged into recession last year for the first time in a quarter of a century.

Political opponents claimed the agency had failed to meet targets and was throwing millions of pounds of public money at pointless schemes.

Meanwhile, changes at the Scottish Executive meant Dr Crawford had to deal with no fewer than four Enterprise Ministers during his tenure.

He said: 'I am 52 next week and I have lived in a goldfish bowl for the past three-anda-half years and I would like a less stressful life.' Dr Crawford is widely seen as a highly capable operator, who brought private-sector knowledge to bear on Scottish-Enterprise's bloated management structure.

Under his rule, 500 jobs have been cut, while the body's focus has moved from attracting inward investment to building up skills and training within Scotland.

However, critics liken the changes to rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

Following his resignation, Dr Crawford admitted that, faced with global economic swings, there were limits to what the body could achieve.

' Scottish Enterprise is regarded as one of the worldleading enterprise agencies. But it can only contribute marginally to economic wellbeing,' he said.

However, he denied this boosted the argument for slimming it further.

'If not us, who is going to train thousands of people to make sure we can compete? The private sector is not going to do it,' he said.

'There's no country in the world which doesn't have a form of economic support on hand. Our spend in relation to the country is not out of kilter,' he added.

He conceded the turmoil within the Executive had not made his task any easier.

When Dr Crawford took on the job, Henry McLeish was Enterprise Minister.

Since then, Wendy Alexander, Iain Gray and now Jim Wallace have stepped into the role.

'Obviously, consistency over time is preferable to constant change. I would have liked consistency but I accept in politics that people make changes,' he said.

But he denied claims that ministers had used him as a scapegoat to blame for the nation's economic troubles.

Dr Crawford acknowledged that he and fellow business leaders had so far failed to create a genuinely entrepreneurial culture in Scotland.

'I think aspects of our culture are troubling. There is a tendency to want to see people not do well and blame people when things go wrong,' he said. …