THE chair of Scotland’s £2billion state-owned investment bank has refused to tell MSPs why his former chief executive quit with a £117,500 exit payment.

Willie Watt said he was unable “to provide any further detail” about why Eilidh Mactaggart was paid half her £235,000 salary after she resigned suddenly in January.

He said explaining the generous deal, which left Ms Mactaggart free to work elsewhere immediately, would involve “divulging personal and confidential information”.

Mr Watt insisted the six months’ pay in lieu of notice was not a “severance package, termination payment, settlement agreement, or confidentiality agreement, nor anything akin to those things”.

Mr Watt made his comments in a letter to Holyrood’s Economy and Fair Work Committee - incorrectly addressed to the non-existent economy and finance committee. 

HeraldScotland: Willie Watt's letter to the non-existent committeeWillie Watt's letter to the non-existent committee

Ms Mactaggart quit as CEO of the Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) after 18 months citing unexplained personal reasons, yet said she was looking to work elsewhere.

It fuelled speculation at Holyrood there had been behind-the-scenes tensions involved.

In mid-March, Mr Watt and SNIB board member Carolyn Jameson were summoned to the Economy and Fair Work Committee to explain what had happened.

They insisted there had been “no severance package” for Ms Mactaggart, but failed to mention the payment in lieu of notice.

Mr Watt also admitted the bank could be without a full-time CEO for most of 2022.

A month later, after obtaining background documents through freedom of information, the Herald revealed Ms Mactaggart had been paid her full six months’ notice period.

READ MORE: Outgoing investment bank chief Eilidh Mactaggart 'paid off with six months of her salary'

Opposition parties demanded the bank and the Scottish Government, which is the SNIB’s sole shareholder, explain why she received the £117,500.

However in his new letter to MSPs, Mr Watt refused to expand on Ms Mactaggart’s personal reasons for leaving the high-profile job with immediate effect. 

He wrote: “As the Bank stated to the committee and in several media statements, it would be inappropriate for us to comment further on the specifics of those personal reasons. 

“As an employer we have a legal duty of care towards all employees, and we cannot, nor should we, divulge confidential and personal information related to our current or former employees. 

“The Bank has, however, been as open and transparent as possible within the confines of these obligations.

“On the specific issue of payment in lieu of notice, there can be many situations where an individual does not work through their notice period, yet it remains necessary to make a payment in lieu of notice, as required under the terms of an employment contract. 

“I am not able to provide any further detail on this without divulging personal and confidential information, other than to confirm that this was such a situation. 

“However, I would emphasise that there was no severance package, termination payment, settlement agreement, or confidentiality agreement, nor anything akin to those things. I hope this clarifies the position.”

He added: “The Bank is an impact investment organisation, set-up to benefit the people of Scotland

“It is important that the Bank is trusted across the political spectrum, and our proactive approach to engagement reflects our belief in this. 

“As I set out in my evidence on 16th March, I look forward to further engagement with the committee as we continue our journey of delivering long-term success for the Bank.”

However the Scottish LibDems highlighted a letter sent by SNP Finance Secretary Kate Forbes which suggested the payment to Ms Mactaggart was made in order to speed up the process for finding a replacement.

Writing to LibDem economy spokesperson Willie Rennie today, Ms Forbes said: "Following her resignation the Bank’s Board decided to move swiftly to appoint an Interim CEO to take the Bank forward and therefore sought to pay the former chief executive in line with their contractual obligations."

Mr Rennie said: "For most Scots, if you quit a job for personal or professional reasons – as opposed to being made redundant by your employer - you would not expect to receive six months’ salary, especially when you had only been in the post for a short time.

"The Finance Secretary appears to suggest that this payoff was necessary in order for the bank to go about appointing new leadership. If Eilidh Mactaggart quit of her own accord, I remain unclear as to why pay in lieu of notice should be necessary.

"I had sought clarification on how many other officials could be in line for payoffs such as this but sadly the Finance Secretary has not shed any light on the matter.

"I understand the importance of individual confidentiality, but we still seem no closer to the government accounting for why public money was spent in this way."

Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said: “I was surprised that I had to learn from the press that over £110,000 had been paid out to Eilidh McTaggart following her resignation as chief executive of the Scottish National Investment Bank, as this sum was not disclosed by the Chairman of the bank when he came before the Economy and Fair Work committee.

“Both the Committee and I have since requested further information from the chairman.

"Sadly, the responses from SNIB have taken us no further forward.

“Questions remain about the nature of this departure and its implications for the bank – and there is still no answer on why this sizeable payment of taxpayer’s money was not disclosed as a matter of basic transparency.

“The Scottish Parliament – and the public – deserve better transparency from this taxpayer-funded initiative.”