Mundell Officially the Guardian of Scotland – and that’s Youse telt
The recent release of important information from Downing Street to the press (through an unnamed Westminster political source) was seized upon with hearty gusto and hit the front pages of just about every major newspaper in the UK.
The headline; “Nicola Sturgeon will no longer be allowed to meet on equal terms with Theresa May.
From now on the First minister will be required to consult with the Scottish Secretary, Mundell who is at her level of importance.”
The Downing Street response to enquires was confusing. A spokesman stated; “We do not recognize the comments.” Hardly inspiring.
A more positive “The Prime minister will continue to meet with the first Minister to discuss matters of importance” would have been acceptable.
But Mrs May and Nicola Sturgeon have met only once since their difficult meeting in March 2017 and If the press release has foundation it promotes the lie of the Unionist “Better Together” campaign statement that Scotland and England benefited greatly from a “partnership of equals.”
But the new “call Dave not Theresa” policy is inconsistent since Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party (MSP representing Edinburgh Central) joins Cabinet meetings, accompanied by Mundell..
So there we have it. The First Minister of Scotland, representing the people of Scotland, (appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Presiding Officer, after a vote of the Scottish Parliament) is a nonentity so far as the Tory Government in Westminster is concerned.
But the foregoing should not have come as a surprise to Scots who were alerted to potential difficulties with the Scotland Act by senior Scottish politicians and Mundell’s assertions of his importance just after the 2014 referendum.
And Scots are reminded of their place in the Little Englander society represented by the Westminster elite..
21 November 2001: Taking a look-back – and the early warning that the Scotland Act was not fit for purpose and needed to be strengthened
Lord Steel, the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer, criticised the devolution settlement, claiming that Scotland’s institutions should have more power to act without seeking Westminster approval.
Lord Steel, who was giving evidence to a parliamentary committee for the first time, indicated that Holyrood was fettered by the Scotland Act.
He told the parliament’s procedures committee that the Act should be altered to allow Scottish institutions to be changed without the permission of Westminster.
His objection to the current position became clear when his attention was drawn to the provisions of the Scotland Act, which state that the number of MSPs at Holyrood should be reduced from the current level of 129.
Lord Steel has always disagreed with plans to cut the number of MSPs to keep the Scottish parliament in line with proposed changes in the number of Scottish MPs in the House of Commons.
He said: “There’s one problem with the position of the parliament and that’s that it is still set up under the Scotland Act and we have to go back to that if we want to introduce changes in our structure.
I don’t think in the long run that’s a sensible way to proceed.
Even if we are all agreed on a sensible change here it means we have to persuade both Houses at Westminster that they have got to give up time.
I think the real answer lies in that if and when the Scotland Act is reviewed, one of the changes that should be made is that the constitution of our own proceedings should be transferred to us, full stop.” (The Telegraph)
11 February 2002: Impact of Devolved Government to Scotland – Scotland’s Deputy First Minister Lib/Dem Jim Wallace Calls for Abolition of the Scottish Office
The Deputy First Minister, Jim Wallace, said last week that there was no longer any need for the post of Secretary of State for Scotland.
The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats said Scottish ministers were already working closely with their counterparts in London, bypassing the need for a Scottish Secretary. (The Telegraph)
October 2014: Mundell self defines his and the role of the Scottish Office as decided by the Tory party in Westminster
My role as Scottish Secretary of State is to ensure the smooth working of the devolution settlement in Scotland. and to represent Scottish interests within the UK Government and representing the UK Government in Scotland
And to ensure that when it comes to reserved matters (the issues that the UK Government deals with in Scotland), the people of Scotland’s voice is heard at the highest level in UK Government. My objectives are;
- To strengthen and sustain the union.
- To act as a custodian of the devolution settlement.
- To be Scotland’s voice in Whitehall.
- To represent Scottish interests within Government and support the rest of Government on UK matters.
- To champion the UK Government in Scotland
- To represent and advocate for the UK Government’s policies and achievements in Scotland.
November 2014: Top Civil Service Award goes To a team of senior civil servants, around 29 in total – seconded from the Treasury to the Scottish Office establishment to actively participate against Scotland’s interests in the UK Government’s 2014 referendum dirty tricks campaign
Sir Jeremy Heywood presented the team with “The Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Award 2014” in recognition of their outstanding achievements in making a marked difference on an issue of national importance. A number of officials were interviewed after the presentation;
Mario Pisani Deputy Director at HM Treasury said:
“In the Treasury, everyone hates you. We don’t get thanks for anything. This is one occasion where we’ve worked with the rest of Whitehall.
We all had something in common, we’re trying to save the Union here, and it came so close.
We just kept it by the skin of our teeth. I actually cried when the result came in.
After 10 years in the civil service, my proudest moment is tonight and receiving this award.
As civil servants you don’t get involved in politics.
For the first time in my life, suddenly we’re part of a political campaign.
We were doing everything from the analysis, to the advertising, to the communications.
I just felt a massive sense of being part of the operation.
This being recognised (at the Civil Service Awards), makes me feel just incredibly proud.”
Paul Doyle; Senior Treasury Official
“This award is not just for the Treasury, it’s for all the hard work that was done by all government departments on the Scotland referendum agenda.
The reality was in all my experience of the civil service, I have never seen the civil service pull together in the way they did behind supporting the UK government in maintaining the United Kingdom. It was a very special event for all of us.”
Shannon Cochrane; Senior Treasury Official
“we’ve learned that it is possible for civil servants to work on things that are inherently political and quite difficult, and you’re very close to the line of what is appropriate, but it’s possible to find your way through and to make a difference.”
William MacFarlane; Deputy Director HM Treasury, (Budget and Tax Strategy)
“As civil servants you don’t get involved in politics.
But, for the first time in my life, suddenly we’re part of a political campaign. We were doing everything from the analysis, to the advertising, to the communications.
I just felt a massive sense of being part of the operation.
This being recognised (at the Civil Service Awards), makes me feel just incredibly proud.”
July 2015: The role of the Joint Committee for Scottish Affairs (Westminster) – requires It to be aware of and report to Parliament on matters of importance pertaining to Scotland.
Fulfilling their duties the Committee interviewed Francesca Osowska OBE, Director, Scotland Office to discuss financial matters arising from the Scottish Referendum
Chair: Welcome to the Scottish Affairs Committee; we are very grateful for you both coming along today.
If you would like to introduce yourselves and say what you do, and if there are any initial statements that you want to make to the Committee, please feel free to use that time.
Francesca Osowska: The Annual Report sets out five objectives for 2014-15 and I think our work continues in that vein.
We have a strong constitutional role, primarily in relation to the Scotland Bill, which, as you are aware, is passing through these Houses at the moment.
This is a key priority for the Scotland Office. In addition we continue to be the voice of Scotland in Whitehall, so our work with other Government Departments across Whitehall, in terms of ensuring that they appreciate the devolution settlement and that they are conscious of the Scottish context, will continue.
Similarly, we are the voice of the UK Government in Scotland and, again, we work co-operatively with other Government Departments who have reserved responsibilities in Scotland to ensure that the UK government can work effectively in Scotland.
Chair: Thank you. Obviously, we are here to talk about the Annual Report, which we have all digested and know inside out and back to forward, and so on.
We are grateful that we are able to ask you a few questions about what is included in the Annual Report.
One of the things that struck me, perhaps you could explain to me how this works is that there are 100 staff currently employed within the Scotland Office. Is that correct, roughly 100 staff?
Francesca Osowska: Across the Scotland Office and the Office of the Advocate General, yes.
Chair: Across the estate that is operating the Scotland Office. None of them are permanent. Does that create any difficulties or problems or issues for you?
I would imagine it must, and why has the decision been taken that they have no permanent staff in the Scotland Office?
Francesca Osowska: Since devolution and since the creation of the Scotland Office this has been the case, that the Scotland Office does not itself directly employ staff, but we second or take staff on loan from other Departments. In the Scotland Office in London most of our staff are on loan, but we also benefit from arrangements with Sir Jeremy Heywood and the Cabinet Office gaining access to external expertise and indeed access external HR expertise, which is effective and efficient for us.
Margaret Ferrier: The 2015-16 budget for the Scotland Office was set at £5.8 million, but the most recent main estimate asked Parliament to approve an additional £3 million for capability enhancement. What were the additional funds for?
Francesca Osowska: In terms of the out turn for 2014-15 the total combined out turn for the Office of the Advocate General and the Scotland Office was £7.7 million.
You will appreciate that that did include an uplift from the original budget setting process that occurred in 2010.
At that point, a referendum was not anticipated; a lot of the work in terms of 2014-15 has been the follow through or was related to the referendum, so the work in the run up to the referendum, contributing to the Scotland analysis papers for example, supporting Ministers as they gave public information to inform the debate about the referendum, and that explains the increase in that provision.
(So entire wage bill and ancillary costs of the 29 civil servants deployed to assist the “better together) was charged to Scottish financial allocations. Utterly disgraceful abuse of the Scottish electorate. And there was no mention of this expenditure in the returns to the Scottish Electoral Office.)
Margaret Ferrier: These public Ministers, are you meaning UK Ministers?
Francesca Osowska: Yes.
Margaret Ferrier: Not Scottish Government?
Francesca Osowska: No.
Margaret Ferrier: The Annual Report and Accounts show that General Administration costs rose by about 8% from £7.2 million in 2013-14 to £7.7 million in 2014-15.
Why did the General Administration costs rise? Is there another reason, other than the referendum debate that was taking place?
Francesca Osowska: No. As I said earlier, the initial budget was set in 2010 as part of that spending review.
The referendum was not anticipated at that point and this increase represents the resources dedicated by the Scotland Office to supporting the work of the UK Government, overall, in informing the referendum debate.
Kirsty Blackman: The Scotland Office had allocated to it and spent an extra £3 million helping UK Government Ministers with information about the referendum, mainly?
Francesca Osowska: In terms of the increase, there are a number of different figures being talked about here.
It might be helpful if I wrote to the Committee after this hearing to set out the sequence of events, because there were uplifts granted and changes in the Budget made from the original 2010 provision at different periods, including during the course of 2013-14, so I do not think it is entirely correct to say it was a single jump of £3 million.
Chair: It would be helpful if you write to the Committee to explain properly what that £3.3 million did account for.
What we are hearing is that this might have been the figure that was used for the referendum campaign, for the “No” campaign, and used by UK Ministers to take part in the referendum.
Would that be roughly a correct characterisation of that spending?
Francesca Osowska: I don’t think it would be, if you don’t mind. What I am saying is that, if we look at page 54 of the Annual Report and Accounts, then you see the trajectory of the Scotland Office and Office of the Advocate General accounts.
You can see, in terms of general administration costs, that they have more or less been around the £7 million.
That is why I feel it is important that I write and set out the explanation of the £3 million figure.
Chair: Please do.
Francesca Osowska: However, in answer to your question, Mr Chairman in relation to “Was this a way of the Government funding the ‘No’ campaign?” this was to fund the activities of UK Government civil servants, in line with the civil service code.
*All activities undertaken by civil servants in my Department would meet a propriety test, yet I think you would agree that in the run-up to a referendum, obviously when Ministers want to be more visible, when we need to ensure that there is a good flow of public information for example, via the Scotland analysis papers that increases our activity and that is why there was an increase between the 2013-14 out turn and 2014-15 out turn.
* But reflect on the disgraceful actions of the UK Cabinet Office and Treasury Civil servants (in the previous note) which contain the proud admission that they had been seconded to the Scottish Office (in Westminster) and were tasked, for an extended period of time to provide active support to the “Better Together” campaign. Actions that brought about the defeat of Scots who wished only to be an independent nation once again. What a bunch of charlatans.
July 2015: what a con – the Civil Service and their Janus faced illegal politics
Francesca Osowska, in a number of evasive statements to the Scottish Affairs Committee, glossed over the expensive and extensive work of a large group of (supposedly politically neutral) Civil Servants who actively supported the objectives of the “Better Together” campaign.
A gross misuse of public finances and Civil Servants presumably by David Cameron and Sir Jeremy Heywood.
She also confirmed that Mundell retains funding sufficient to employ up to 100 whole time equivalent (W.T.E.) posts and that salary and incidental costs arising from such employment are (top sliced) from Scotland’s block grant before the allocation of finance to the Scottish government.
The slush fund created is an ever increasing annual financial nest egg, skimmed off Scotland’s block financial grant and used, abused by the Mundell for purposes such as UK government anti-devolution leaflet production, printing and distribution.
And Hiring of Special Advisors (SpAds), usually sons, daughters, other relations, friends of ministers or other MP’s and employment of Civil Servants from other Government Departments in times of need.