SCOTLAND’S government was characterised by “fear and arrogance” and an “inferiority complex” in the early days of devolution, according to one of its current mandarins.

Ken Thomson, who in July became Director-General for Constitution and External Affairs, made the comments in a private memo in April 2000.

Mr Thomson, then Principal Private Secretary to First Minister Donald Dewar, shared his thoughts with fellow officials in a discussion about benchmarking the Scottish Executive's performance against “sub-national” regions, such as Flanders and Bavaria.

He wrote: “What’s wrong with the Scottish Executive? Crudely, part of the psychological diagnosis might be that (a) it has an inferiority complex and thinks that it is terrible compared to other organisations (it probably thinks it is pretty good compared to Whitehall departments… but this is small compensation); and (b) it thinks it is unique, with any ideas invented anywhere else being of little relevance and applicability here.

“This leads to a curious combination of fear and arrogance: fear of being compared and found wanting, arrogance that says that nobody else is like us / shares our problems / could give us ideas.

“If (big if) we are coming out of the post devolution survival phase and entering some kind of recovery/ development phase, then the time may be coming to challenge some of that thinking, and we might find that we aren’t as bad or as unique as we like to think.”

Mr Thomson also wrote a catty August 1999 memo about cabinet business and ministerial meetings.

He said Mr Dewar and his then deputy Jim Wallace were too inaccessible for ministers.

“The FM is missing out on the chance to mix and chat before the [cabinet] meeting. Instead, he and DFM descend the stairs in a cloud of officials and advisers looking pre-occupied instead of approachable.”