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Businessman lobbied to push quango out of entrepreneur awards

A LEADING Scots ­businessman tried to get the country's jobs quango removed from a publicly-funded Dragons' Den-style scheme for ­entrepreneurs.

Jim Duffy, whose presence as a judge for the £2 million Scottish Edge Awards has come in for criticism, privately told the Government the competition should be pulled out of Scottish Enterprise control and attacked public-sector "entitlement".

Funded by the Government and run by Scottish Enterprise, the Edge gives cash prizes to businesses with innovative ideas.

The competition was the brainchild of Duffy, who is "chief executive optimist" of business hatchery Entrepreneurial Spark (ESpark), and was staged three times last year: in February, June and December.

However, the competition became embroiled in conflict-of-interest claims after it emerged that more than half of the finalists for the June event were linked to Entrepreneurial Spark.

Duffy was also one of the shortlisting judges. His presence in the sift for the June awards triggered complaints and he withdrew as a sifting panellist, but he was reinstated for the December round of Edge awards.

Correspondence between Duffy and the Government reveals the mentor's frustration with Scottish Enterprise and his desire for a bigger role in the scheme.

Days after the first Edge awards in February - a judging process in which he was not involved - he emailed the Government, saying: "Can you see how in this country we create an Entrepreneurs Fund and everyone grabs it with public sector expectation and entitlement? The Edge can be administered by SE, but must quickly move away or it will be quagmired in bureaucracy."

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "Partner organisations regularly exchange free and frank views on the future direction of the Scottish Edge to ensure that the potential of Scotland's future entrepreneurial successes are realised."

Entrepreneurial Spark did not respond to a request for comment.

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