THE top official at East Lothian Council is leaving her post to become chief executive at new national public health body Public Health Scotland.

Angela Leitch was appointed chief executive at the council in June 2011, taking up her post in September of that year.

She had previously held the chief executive position at Clackmannanshire Council and before that was head of service with City of Edinburgh Council.

The move has now been formally announced, with Mrs Leitch leaving her role at the council in December.

The search for her replacement at East Lothian Council is expected to begin in due course.

Mrs Leitch said: “In my eight years with East Lothian Council we have seen significant change in both the council and the county.

"It has been fulfilling and rewarding to work alongside our employees, elected members, local groups and partners in delivering services across our communities.

“As evidenced by last year’s report from the Accounts Commission and reinforced by Quality Scotland, East Lothian is a high-performing council which compares favourably to other local authorities and continues to improve.

“This is testament to our teams across East Lothian whose commitment and dedication has delivered high levels of satisfaction with the services we provide, and has meant we have achieved or exceeded our targets.

“My role with Public Health Scotland will be focused on a renewed effort to improve the health and wellbeing of the people of Scotland.

"It is a genuinely unique opportunity, with a new national organisation that is responsible jointly to the Scottish Government and COSLA, to build on the critical role local authorities and our partners have in improving the health of people in local communities.

“I’m looking forward to building on the connections I’ve made in the last eight years, working to making a real difference to the health of Scotland’s communities by applying a partnership approach.

“There is no doubt that I will always fondly remember the people and time I have spent in East Lothian.”

Councillor Willie Innes, leader of East Lothian Council, said: “I would like to thank Angela Leitch for her strong and effective leadership of East Lothian Council since 2011.

“In her eight years as chief executive, she has ensured that the council has had a strong focus on delivering on improvements to services.

“This is reflected in a number of ways, including clear strategic direction and improving overall performance, as recognised by Scotland’s local government spending watchdog.

“She has helped oversee the introduction of new initiatives such as the East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership and the formation of area partnerships, which have helped to empower our communities and reduce inequalities.

“While East Lothian has not been immune to the very difficult financial circumstances faced by local authorities the length and breadth of Scotland, the council has continued to deliver effective financial management.

“I would like to wish Angela every success for her new role, in which I’m sure she’ll be able to draw on her experience from here in East Lothian.

“Our focus now will be on finding a high-calibre replacement, who can build upon the very strong foundations laid by Angela since 2011 and take us forward.”

Professor Jim McGoldrick, shadow chair of Public Health Scotland, said: “Public Health Scotland will be at the forefront of the collaborative effort to improve the nation’s health and wellbeing, and Angela’s extensive senior leadership experience in local government and her deep knowledge of how local communities and the wider public sector can work effectively together will be a significant asset to the new organisation.

"Our ambition is for Public Health Scotland to support real, measurable and sustained improvement in the nation’s health and wellbeing and I’m looking forward to working closely with Angela to make it possible for all citizens to take positive decisions about their own health and be supported to do so.’’

Joe FitzPatrick MSP, Minister for Public Health, said: "I’d like to take the opportunity to welcome Angela to the position of Public Health Scotland’s first chief executive.

"Her extensive leadership experience will be crucial in this new position as Public Health Scotland establishes its national leadership role.

£Our ultimate aim is to improve the health of the population and to reduce the unacceptable variation in life expectancy that exists across Scotland.

"The new body will work with and be accountable to both national and local government and I’m looking forward to working closely with Angela as we tackle Scotland’s major public health challenges and deliver improvements for communities across the country.

"Angela’s substantial local government experience reflects the reform programme’s ambition to strengthen the role and contribution of Scotland’s councils and local partnerships in the joint effort to improve health and wellbeing."

Councillor Peter Johnston, COSLA’s health and social care spokesperson, said: “Angela Leitch is a welcome appointment in this new and exciting role as chief executive of Public Health Scotland.

"Angela’s experience of public service leadership, including over 25 years in Scottish local government, means she is ideally placed to tackle the unique public health challenges that Scotland faces.

"This will not be an easy task, but I believe Angela will put Scotland on a path to becoming a healthier nation.

"I am genuinely excited to welcome her on board as we empower individuals, communities and organisations across the country to have the best overall quality of life that they can.”

Public Health Scotland will be Scotland’s lead national agency for improving and protecting health and wellbeing and brings together health improvement, health protection and health care public health functions with leadership roles in research, innovation and developing the public health workforce.

Public Health Scotland will be fully established by April 2020.