The first challenges

Silk material

It all started with one man in a small old Scottish Tourist Board office and a secretary, both on loan from the civil service.

James Dargie, the first Controller of Audit, started with an entirely blank sheet and had to build the organisation entirely up from scratch in just three months.

The Herald reported his appointment in December 1974 on a salary of £10,500 a year. He had held several posts on local government, and was latterly chief finance officer for Glenrothes Development Corporation.

The first challenge was to recruit auditors. Mr Dargie developed the mixed system which is still in operation today – where around half the audits are carried out by staff working directly for the Commission and the other half by private accountancy firms on its behalf.

The aim was to have public sector audit keeping up with professional expertise in the private sector and also retain flexibility and efficiency using outside firms at times of peak audit activity.

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Of interest...

A key figure was the first chair of the Commission, Tom Fraser. He was elected MP for Hamilton in 1943. His time as Transport Minister saw the introduction of the 70mph speed limit on roads and the closure of railway lines under the Beeching plans.

He resigned in 1967 to become chairman of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.  This triggered the celebrated Hamilton by election which saw Winnie Ewing elected and the resurgence of Scottish National Party. A leading supporter for establishing Scotland’s new towns, he was involved in various committees and commissions on local government.