More than 1,000 civil service jobs will be moved north of the border in a bid to “colocate the engine room of the UK Government in Scotland” and end a “Westminster-knows-best approach” to policy, ministers say.
As well as the previously confirmed Cabinet Office headquarters in Glasgow, more than 500 Foreign Office jobs will move to the department’s existing base in East Kilbride in South Lanarkshire.
The additional roles, unveiled as part of the UK Government‘s pledge to “level up” every part of the country during the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, will bring the Foreign Office’s staff in Scotland to 1,500 by 2025.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the move will “ensure Scottish voices shape everything we do”, while Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab added that the relocated jobs will ensure the civil service “represents all parts of the UK”.
The announcement will likely see an increased presence of UK Government ministers in Scotland, with officials claiming this will “create new opportunities to join UK efforts in tackling joint domestic and international challenges”.
Underlining the importance of the UK pulling together, Mr Gove outlined how the plans will also allow closer collaboration between Scotland’s two governments.
He said the creation of a second flagship headquarters in Glasgow will build on the presence of the COP26 team, the major international climate change conference, and will include officials from a range of civil service functions.
Jobs and investment
Mr Gove said: “The Cabinet Office’s new HQ in Glasgow will colocate the engine room of the UK Government in Scotland, bringing decision makers closer to the communities they serve and ensuring closer collaboration between Scotland’s two governments as we tackle the Covid-19 pandemic together and work to build a sustainable recovery.
“Not only will this bring new jobs and investment to Scotland, it will strengthen the diversity of the UK Civil Service, ending the Westminster-knows-best approach to policymaking and ensuring Scottish voices shape everything we do.
“The road to recovery from the pandemic will be tough, but with all four nations pulling together we can ensure we build back a stronger, fairer and greener United Kingdom.”
The plans are part of the government’s drive to move 22,000 civil service roles from London to communities across the UK by 2030.
Moving part of the Cabinet Office, described as the “heart of the UK government”, will help build on its existing presence in Scotland, which includes Queen Elizabeth House, the new UK Government office in Edinburgh.
Ministers say the announcement will bring economic benefits to Scotland, with £65 million already allocated for office works and improvements.
Scotland’s ‘immense contribution’
The UK Government said the pledge to move an additional 500 jobs to the FCDO’s joint-headquarters in East Kilbride “underlines the immense contribution that the Scottish people make to the UK’s foreign policy and international development work”.
Foreign secretary Dominic Raab said on Monday: “There can be no clearer demonstration of commitment to our joint HQ in East Kilbride than today’s announcement that an extra 500 Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office jobs are coming to Scotland.
“This will further ensure the Civil Service represents all parts of the UK and will be a boost to the Scottish economy.
“Staff at Abercrombie House are at the forefront of delivering the UK’s diplomatic clout, as we prepare to host the G7 and COP26, while supporting the delivery of our £10 billion aid budget to continue helping the world’s poorest people.”
A drop in the ocean
However, SNP MSP George Adam said that, since 2010, the Conservatives have axed 7,000 civil service jobs in Scotland and suggested the latest announcement is cynically timed ahead of May’s Scottish Parliament election.
“In a period of Westminster austerity, the UK Government chose to disproportionately slash jobs north of the border – today’s announcement is a drop in the ocean against the backdrop of these widescale cuts,” he said.
“The Tories know that if people vote SNP in May then a fresh referendum is coming – they wouldn’t be spending so much time relocating Whitehall staff to Scotland if they didn’t.”