Scottish Affairs Committee Meeting – 2015 – Scottish Office – Financial matters – Francesca Osowska OBE, Director, Scotland Office in attendance
The minutes were very long and tedious to read so I summarised the content
We are very grateful for you coming along today. If you would like to say what you do, and if there are any initial statements that you want to make to the Committee, please feel free to do so.
I am Director for the Scotland Office and I am also Principal Accounting Officer for the Scotland Office and the Office of the Advocate General. I am very pleased to appear before the Committee to answer questions on the Annual Report and Accounts for 2014-15.
We have digested the report and wish to ask some questions about the content. Firstly. Could you explain how it is that there are 100 WTE staff currently employed in the Scotland Office but none of them are permanent.? Does this create any difficulties or problems or issues? I would imagine it must, and why was the decision taken not to employ permanent staff?
The Scotland Office does not directly employ staff. We utilize the staff of other Government Departments. This results in the bulk of our staff being seconded for specific purposes. We also benefit from arrangements with the Cabinet Office which provides access to external expertise. When these dual-purpose staff are in post within the Scotland Office, they are considered to be fully part of the Scotland Office team, so if the question is about allegiance, there are no difficulties there.
It is not about allegiance. I don’t think that is the issue. It is about being able to build up a staff capacity when most of them are part-time and none permanent. Are they shared with other Ministry Departments or are they exclusive to the Scotland Office?
They are exclusive to the Scotland Office.
But are they are seconded from other Departments?
They are seconded or on loan from other Departments. When seconded they have direct line management throughout the Scotland Office and are answerable to Scotland Office Ministers, so that line of accountability is very direct.
Are there any plans to get permanent staff in place, given there are significant and substantial pieces of work to consider as we go forward?
I believe the current arrangements work very well.
The last year has been particularly trying, with the referendum and the Smith Commission. What do you see as the main issues and challenges and the main thrust of your work as you go forward over the next year or two years in the parliamentary term?
We have a strong constitutional role, primarily in relation to the Scotland Bill, which, as you are aware, is passing through Westminster at the moment. In addition, we continue to be the voice of Scotland in Whitehall, so our work with other Government Departments will continue. Similarly, we are the voice of the UK Government of Scotland and we work co-operatively with other Government Departments who have reserved responsibilities in Scotland to ensure that the UK government can operate effectively in Scotland.
Do you see yourself primarily as the voice of Scotland in Whitehall or do you see more of a role as being the voice of the UK Government of Scotland? How would you characterize the effort that is put on to each of those very laudable aims and objectives?
I think we treat them equally. If I were to take those objectives along with our constitutional objectives which, as I mentioned, include the Scotland Bill, but also include responsibilities in terms of Scotland Act orders and LCMs then I would say that we give those equal weight.
The Scottish Referendum – Finance and Use of Civil Servants from the Cabinet Office and Treasury in support of the “Better Together” campaign
The 2013 spending round allocated a budget of £6m to the Scotland Office for 2015-16 but Westminster has recently been asked to increase the financial allocation by £3m for “capability enhancements”. What are these unspecified enhancements?
Explained by referring to 2014-15. The original budget was set in the 2010 spending round. At that time a referendum had not been anticipated. Much of the excessive financial expenditure of the Scotland Office in 2014/15 was attributed to the temporary employment of additional staff in the run-up to the referendum and an extensive contribution to the Scotland analysis papers, eg. Supporting public Ministers in the preparation and distribution of information (leaflet drops) to the Scottish public informing them of the implications of independence. The result was a spend of £7.7m. Much in excess of the original budget.
These public Ministers. Do you mean UK Ministers?
Not Scottish Government ministers?
The report shows that administration costs rose by about 8% from £7.2 million in 2013-14 to £7.7 million in 2014-15. Why are these general administration costs rising? Is there any reason, other than the referendum debate?
The entire increase represents the resources dedicated by the Scotland Office to support the work of the UK Government informing the referendum debate.
So the Scotland Office had allocated to it and spent an extra £3 million helping UK Government Ministers with information about the referendum, mainly?
In terms of what the money delivered and the outcomes that the Scotland Office delivered, part of and a focus of the work in 2014-15 was in direct relation to the run-up and then the after-events—including the Smith Commission—of the referendum.
What we are being told is that the money had been set aside to be used in support of the “No” campaign, and was used by UK Government Ministers to participate in the referendum. Would that be roughly a correct characterization of the spending?
Not in the context of the assertion: “that this was a way of the Government funding the ‘No’ campaign?” It was to fund the activities of UK ministerial departments and Whitehall civil servants who discharged their duties in line with the Civil Service Code. All activities undertaken by Whitehall civil servants would meet that propriety test.
Her assertion was later debunked as utter tosh. See:
16 December 2014; Westminster Civil Service, “Devolved Countries Unit”, (Dirty Tricks) campaign team wins “special” Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Award
The award, in recognition of the team’s outstanding achievement in making a difference on an issue of national significance, (the Referendum) was presented by the ”Cabinet Secretary and civil service head Sir Jeremy Heywood. The proud team commented afterward;
“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 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.”
William MacFarlane, Deputy Director at HM Treasury, (Budget and Tax Strategy);
“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 recognized [at the Civil Service Awards], makes me feel just incredibly proud.”
“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.
Mario Pisani Deputy Director at HM Treasury, (Public Policy);
“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 was 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 recognized [at the Civil Service Awards], makes me feel just incredibly proud.”
Damm, Damm and Double Damm – What a con – The civil service and their Janus-faced illegal political behaviour
Osowska, in a number of evasive statements to the Scottish Affairs Committee, represented them misleadingly glossing 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. Gross misuse of public finances and Civil Servants presumably authorized by David Cameron and Sir Jeremy Heywood.
The political slush fund created is an ever-increasing Unionist Party financial nest egg, skimmed off Scotland’s block financial grant and abused by the Scotland Office for questionable purposes, such as Westminster Government anti-devolution leaflet production, printing, and distribution. And/or hiring Special Advisors (SpAds), often sons, daughters, other relations, friends of ministers or other MP’s.
Scotland Office – The Gobble Gobble Monster – Rapidly Increasing Financial Allocations
The cost of maintaining the Scotland Office is extortionately high and is ever increasing year on year without justification or satisfactory explanation.
A House of Commons report submitted in 2005/2006 recorded that the Scotland Office was hopelessly overstaffed and recommended a 50 percent establishment reduction. In the years that followed salary costs were indeed reduced.
But from the time the Tory Government took up the reins of government salary costs increased year on year, but it only recently that the method in the apparent madness of the Tory Government surfaced.
The Scotland Office is no longer a team existing to assist Scotland and it’s devolved government.
Mundell siphoned nearly £4.5million from the Scottish financial allocation and directed it into a Unionist political slush fund providing very generous finance for schemes designed to enhance his and the Tory Party profile in Scotland.