IT was a two-for-one double bill at Holyrood’s economy and fair work committee yesterday.

Not only was finance secretary Kate Forbes grilled about her 10-year growth strategy, we had an appearance by Willie Watt, the chair of Scotland’s state-owned investment bank, currently in search of a new CEO after the last one shot the craw.

I doubt either feature would have rated a mention in last week’s Baftas. Drama was thin on the ground. But together they told their own story of incompetence and secrecy in high places, and that was enough to keep myself and fellow parliament buffs glued to the TV.

Ms Forbes was there to promote and defend her National Strategy for Economic Transformation, which came out earlier this month and was promptly mauled by the STUC for omitting huge chunks of the workforce, and by economists for failing to demonstrate how its ideas would work in practice.

One of its main aims is to drive the shift towards an ever greener economy so that Scotland is a net zero society by 2045.

Although the ambition is surely laudable, details are hard to come by.

It didn’t take much questioning by Labour MSP Colin Smyth before it started to ring decidedly hollow.

He asked why Ms Forbes should be so confident about creating more green jobs when her government had failed so badly to hit its last target of 130,000 by 2020.

The ONS estimates there were just 20,500 that year, and that the number has actually been shrinking since 2016. Come to think of it, what was Ms Forbes’s new target for green jobs, Mr Smyth asked.

The finance secretary obfuscated mightily, talking about opportunities instead of offering a number, and chucking an official into the fray as a distraction.

But Mr Smyth persisted in his quest for a target, and eventually, after some more quibbling, Ms Forbes effectively admitted there wasn’t one, and that the government was looking at moving the goalposts, by changing the definition of green jobs.

The current system featured “very narrow ways of measuring green jobs”, she said. Instead of the ONS just focusing on renewable energy, carbon capture and electric vehicles, perhaps putting up more energy efficient buildings could count?

In other words, the SNP is hoping all sorts of jobs that don’t ramp up carbon emissions might be deemed actively green.

Given how keen businesses of all kinds are to flex their green credentials, you can see how it could make the numbers stack up. But at the end of day it’s old school cynicism: if you can’t hit the target, change the target. It’s hardly visionary stuff.

After the intermission, Mr Watt was questioned about why Eilidh Mactaggart had jacked in her £235,000-a-year gig as chief executive of the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) after just 18 months in charge of what will become a £2billion institution. Mr Watt attributed it to “personal reasons” and said it was the bank’s policy not to discuss such things.

But he and fellow SNIB board member Carolyn Jameson did elaborate on the timeline. They revealed Ms Mactaggart had resigned to Mr Watt on January 27.

It then took four days to tell the SNIB’s board and its sole shareholder, the Scottish Government.

But it was not until four weeks later, on February 25, that the SNIB made the news public in a press release. Mr Watt offered no explanation for this delay and its air of casual disregard for the taxpayer.

Ms Forbes and the Scottish Government had also kept silent during this period. The Scottish Parliament was kept in the dark.

It was not until March 1 that MSPs had their first chance to ask Ms Forbes about the issue, and she refused point blank to tell them what she knew about it.

Despite the SNIB’s reliance on public funds, she said it was all a matter between the bank’s board and Ms Mactaggart.

Nicola Sturgeon rebuffed MSPs by using the same formula two days later. At this point, no one, not the bank, Mr Watt, or the Scottish Government, had even gone as far as to say “personal reasons”.

That only entered their lexicon on March 4, when Ms Mactaggart used it herself in a statement saying she had “ultimately” left for personal reasons. Curiously, however, these wouldn’t stop her working somewhere else, and she was “considering a number of opportunities”.

In the end, it was six weeks after her resignation before Mr Watt faced any public questions on the issue, and only then after MSPs hauled him in.

The lack of transparency throughout, at all levels, has been woeful. Sadly, it seems par for the course for the SNIB.

Despite holding around ten fully-minuted board meetings per year, it doesn’t publish any minutes from them.

It promised at its launch in November 2020 that it would publish a register of board members’ interests, a code of conduct policy and a conflicts of interests policy “once available”. But it still hasn’t bothered to put them on its website.

A request by the Herald for them yesterday elicited some of the information, but not all, with the register of interests currently unavailable as it unwisely combines board member and staff data.

“I guess, to be honest with you, that we are still learning,” Mr Watt told MSPs.

The worry is that the SNIB and the rest of Scotland’s public sector are learning from those at the top, from the ministers for whom transparency seems to have become a dirty word and a menace not a duty. How long before rewriting targets becomes a spring fashion, I wonder.

It was only one day at one committee. But it summed up the Government’s toxic instinct for trying to bluster past bad news and fudge the facts. It is, at best, setting a dismal example, and at worst encouraging other public bodies to follow suit.

As Mr Watt also said, the SNIB is one of the new kids on the block. But it is already developing bad habits. If Ms Forbes truly wants to transform Scotland, she and her colleagues would do well to transform their secretive and sleekit ways first.

“It’s time for us to be more outward facing. We’ve got our internal house in order.