Francesca Osowska – Elite Civil Servant Seemingly Accountable Only to the Cabinet Secretary in London



Francesca Osowska – The Early Years

Osowska was raised in Cumbria and privately schooled in her primary years but had to transfer to Wyndam Comprehensive to complete her secondary education.

She was an exemplary student who confounded critics of the local authority education system by achieving grades good enough to take her to Cambridge University where she gained an MA in Economics. A qualification to which she added an MA in European Economics from the College of Europe in Bruges.

In 1993 she joined the civil service as an economist and worked in the Employment Department in Sheffield for a time before taking up similar posts in London, Brussels, and Edinburgh, with the Scottish Office.

In 1998 she transferred her skills to mainstream civil service and joined the Scottish Office Education Department before going on to the Justice Department after which she was promoted Head of the Sports Department.

She took a long sabbatical from the Civil Service to pursue her love of athletics where her performances in the “Triathlon” and similar events were of the “Olympic” standard. A tough lady, she could run like the wind, swim like a fish, and cycle faster than a roadrunner. But injuries took their toll.


Principal Private Secretary (PPS) to Alex Salmond

She returned to the Civil Service and was fast-tracked by Westminster to the rank of “Elite” civil servant. This small group of civil servants pledges their allegiance to the Director of the Civil Service, who, reports to the Prime Minister and leads the Cabinet Office in London.

From then on, regardless of deployment, her loyalty was and still is to the “Elite” team and its leader. In 2007 she was installed as PPS to the First Minister, Alex Salmond, retaining the post until late 2009.



Osowska Takes a Dig at Alex Salmond

On 28 November 2017, only a few weeks after taking up the greatest challenge to her organizational abilities she elected to be interviewed by the Glasgow Herald and opened up with a negative assessment of her time as PPS to Alex Salmond from 2007-2009.

The reporter wrote:

“Francesca Osowska has some pretty big challenges to wrestle with, in her new job as chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage. Should we reintroduce wolves and lynx to Scotland? Should the controversial culling of wild hares continue? Can we save the capercaillie? But none of the critical questions about Scotland’s iconic species quite compares to her days wrestling with one of the big beasts of politics. The former First Minister Alex Salmond. The subject of Salmond cropped up while Osowska and were talking about her impressive career in government and the civil service. Osowska has been, among other things, an economist at the Scottish Office, Director for the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, and head of the UK Government in Scotland.

But when asked what the lowest point of her career was, she said it was her time as Principal Private Secretary to Alex Salmond. She then said she would need to be extra careful about what she said next and paused for a bit before saying:

“There were times when I was working as Principal Private Secretary to the former First Minister Alex Salmond which were challenging,” (with a heavy emphasis on the word challenge.) I would find myself at Bute House at midnight in front of my computer thinking oh s**t, how am going to resolve this by 8am? Long hours. Challenging issues.”

There’s no doubt that, after years in the civil service, Osowska is used to working in stressful environments at the highest levels. Indeed, if anything, her new post at Scottish Natural Heritage ramps up the stress even further. Full report here:


The Commonwealth Games

In December 2009 she was promoted to the role of Director for Culture, External Affairs, and Tourism with responsibility for developing Scotlands bid for the Commonwealth Games.

Her sales pitch:

Her links to the secretive “Common Purpose” networking organization allowed her to create “33Fifty” a group of young right-wing leaders of the future who would later participate in the conduct of the games in partnership with the Royal Commonwealth Society.

Another promotion came her way in January 2013 when she was appointed to the post of Director for the Commonwealth Games.

In addition to coordinating the work of a large team of senior officers and political figures, with a multitude of skills and agendas she was given a specific remit to regenerate the East End of Glasgow and to ensure the delivery of a lasting legacy for Scotland.

This she duly did and for which in January 2015, she was awarded an OBE, for services to Government and the Commonwealth Games Committee in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours list.



The Commonwealth Games Legacy 2019

Regeneration and Physical Fitness

A major selling point of the Games was the promise of a significant and sustained increase in physical activity within the community as residents flocked to and used the many new sports facilities available to them.

But a study by “GoWell East” found the number of physically active locals had fallen from 62 percent in 2012 to just over 50 percent four years after the Games finished.

Halls and other facilities were demolished as part of the regeneration of the area and replaced with a sparkling new facility named the “Legacy Hub” which cost around £4m to build.

Four years on from the games, plagued by corruption and malfeasance the “Hub” shut its doors. Another Commonwealth Games venture that had failed to deliver the much-vaunted “Games Legacy.”

Full story here:

 Dalmarnock in 2008 sees a playpark and trees

Dalmarnock before the games

 But in 2019 things look no better


Same view four years after the games


Large areas of the Dalmarnock community housing estate were razed to the ground because they were unsightly and residents, in some cases were forcibly removed from their properties under compulsory purchase orders greatly undervaluing the housing.

Many residents were relocated to similar run down pre-war properties outwith Dalmarnock with some finding accommodation after the games in the new housing stock built to house the games athletes.

Four years on Dalmarnock is still an eyesore and as shabby and derelict is as it ever was. Local residents complain that their community has lost its heart with the closure of just about all of its corner shops and other amenities. The much-vaunted investment in the future had proved to be a crock of s**t.

A local councillor admitted the promised improvements had not materialized and the community was hopelessly split between residents of “old Dalmarnock” those of the new village (previously the athletes’ accommodation.)



Improving the Lifestyle of Underprivileged Families

A key legacy of Glasgow 2014 was that thousands of mattresses, beds, wardrobes, and chairs from the athletes’ village were to be distributed to poor and vulnerable families. The scheme was announced to great fanfare prompting a long list of social housing clients to sign up in the hope of transforming their homes with little-used items.

But the Glasgow Housing Association (GHA) charged with administering the scheme had to destroy many thousands of mattresses, wardrobes, bed frames, and chairs after dumping them in damp and filthy warehouses in Renfrew.

Full story here:

A source at the GHA said: “It is a disgrace that this has been allowed to happen. It highlights an almost unbelievable level of mismanagement on the part of the GHA bosses. This equipment was supposed to be distributed to poor and vulnerable families after the Games, but instead, the vast bulk of it is completely unusable. There is not a single item that I would have in my house as a result of the damage that has been caused, it is all infested.”


Director Of The Office Of The UK Government Of Scotland

Her star continued to shine brightly with yet another promotion, in January 2015, to the post of “Director for the Scotland Office of the UK Government.”

Her new boss, David Mundell was delighted since she would be a catalyst ensuring successful implementation of the Westminster government’s plans to usurp the will of the Scottish people through an invidious extensive programme of change transferring financial and political responsibility away from Holyrood.

The role of the Scottish Office was defined by Mundell to be:

“To ensure the smooth working of the devolution settlement in Scotland. Representing Scottish interests within the UK Government and representing the UK Government in Scotland and ensuring 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.

Its 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.

Alex Salmond and Francesca Osowska: wrestling with politics' big beast |  HeraldScotland



The Scottish Affairs Committee Interview Mundell and Osowska

The committee took evidence from Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland, and senior civil servants at the Scotland Office, as they scrutinized the department’s annual report and accounts.

Pete Wishart: Opened the meeting referring to the misconduct of Mundell’s predecessor and Osowska’s former boss Alistair Carmichael, who was fighting claims arising from the “Frenchgate” affair that he had broken electoral law by lying about his role in a leak from the Scotland Office of the content of a private conversation between Nicola Sturgeon and the French consul, apparently reported by a civil servant to his line manager.

The written record allegedly contained a statement reporting that Nicola Sturgeon had voiced her support for the return of the Tory Party to Government. Nicola Sturgeon immediately dismissed the report.

Asked to comment Mundell, who was Carmichael’s number two at the time said he had no part in the leaking of the memo but declined to confirm or deny he had seen it prior to the leak. He said:

“I am Scotland’s voice in Whitehall and my team’s job is to make sure that Scotland’s voice is heard in decisions that are made in Whitehall in the Government. We are also the voice and ears of the UK Government in Scotland because Scotland has two governments. It’s wholly appropriate that the views of both governments are heard but also that we engage widely in relation to the activities of the UK Government in Scotland.”

Wishart questioned Mundell further, asking:

“Were you aware of the requirement for civil servants to record and submit reports to their manager about conversations between Ministers of the Scottish Government and other persons?

Mundell did not answer directly replying:

“The inquiry report set out that in terms of the actions of the civil servants involved there was no impropriety on their part and I had no part in the leaking of that memo.”

Wishart followed up, asking:

“We know you had nothing to do with the making of the leak and that the inquiry has been conducted and concluded, but did you see the memo?”

Ever evasive, Mundell stonewalled replying testily:

“All the relevant information in relation to the leak is contained in the Cabinet Office report.”

Wishart asked Osowska: “How common is it for “Scotland Office” civil servants to contact overseas governments to ask about private conversations between governments and Scottish Government ministers and to compile reports.

Osowska replied: “It is common practice for my staff to be in touch with the consular corps in Scotland and to keep Whitehall fully informed of conversations between Holyrood ministers and foreign diplomats.

It was later revealed that Mundell had issued an edict curtailing direct dialogue between Scottish Government Ministers and their counterparts in London. The Scottish Office would be copied all correspondence and records of any contacts.

Effectively establishing the Westminster Government of Scotland in Edinburgh, just up the road from Holyrood with himself self-appointed to the role of Scotlands Consular General.

Video Diary, Day Two: Francesca Osowska, Scottish Government, UK -  CSCLeaders (Part One) 2013 on Vimeo


Scottish Affairs Committee Meeting – Financial matters – Scotland Office

Francesca Osowska, Director and Principal Accounting Officer for the Scotland Office and the Office of the Advocate General attended to answer questions pertaining to the financial performance of both bodies.

Osowska: “The whole time equivalent establishment (WTE) for both units is around 100. Very few posts are filled with permanent staff the preference being to operate with the assistance of civil service staff seconded from departments at Westminster.”

Margaret Ferrier: “The 2015-16 budget for the Scotland Office, set in the 2013 spending round, was £5.8 million. But the most recent spending estimate asked the Treasury to approve the allocation of a further £3m for “capability enhancement.” What are these new funds for?”

Osowska: “The total combined outturn for the Office of the Advocate General and the Scotland Office in 2014/15 was £7.7 million. The notional £2m overspend was largely offset by an uplift to the allocation set in the 2010 spending round which had not budgeted for the 2014 Independence Referendum. The increased expenditure can mainly be attributed to the referendum which included an allocation of resources to Ministers and their support staff and commercial contractors who provided information to the Scottish public informing the debate.”

Margaret Ferrier: “These public Ministers, are you meaning UK Ministers?”

Osowska: “Yes.”

Margaret Ferrier: “Not the Scottish Government?”

Osowska: “No.”

Kirsty Blackman: “So the Scotland Office had allocated to it and spent an extra £3 million helping UK Government Ministers with information about the referendum, mainly?”

Osowska: “I do not think it is entirely correct to say it was a single jump of £3 million. In terms of what the money delivered and the outcomes that the Scotland Office delivered, I would refer the Committee to the report which sets out a detailed analysis of the outcomes and the outputs from the five objectives set by the Scotland Office, and certainly part of that work and a focus of that work in 2014-15 was in relation to the run-up and then the after-events—including the Smith Commission—of the referendum.”

Chair: “It would be helpful if you write to the Committee to explain properly what the £3.3 million did account for. What we are hearing is that this might have been finance used for “Better Together” in the referendum campaign, and used by UK Ministers and their staff enabling their participation in the referendum campaign. Would that be roughly a correct characterization of that spending?”

Osowska: I don’t think it would be. What I am saying is that in terms of general administration costs, the spend has been consistently around £7m. In answer to your question, “Was this a way of the Government funding the ‘No’ campaign?”. The finance was used to fund the activities of UK Government civil servants, in line with the civil service code. And I can tell you that 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 increase our activity and that is why there was an increase between the 2013-14 out-turn and 2014-15 out-turn.”

The statement was later revealed to be absolute tosh with this revelation from the Cabinet Office in London.


The Devolved Countries Unit – Nobbled the Scots

The Westminster Civil Service, “Devolved Countries Unit”, (Dirty Tricks) campaign team won “special” Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service Awards.

The three amigos’s who actually run the UK: Sir Jeremy Heywood, Sir Bob Kerslake, and Sir Nicholas McPherson collaborated and plotted against Scotland marshalling the full resource of the civil service attacking the Scottish government and anyone who supported the “Yes” campaign.

In the months after the referendum, they expressed great satisfaction that their “Campaign of fear” had created “fearties” in numbers sufficient to win the day for the Unionist coalition.

An award, in recognition of the team’s outstanding achievement, making a significant 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:

* Paul Doyle: “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. 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 recognized [at the Civil Service Awards], makes me feel just incredibly proud.”

* Shannon Cochrane: “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 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. 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 recognized [at the Civil Service Awards], makes me feel just incredibly proud.”

Comment: The “Civil Service Code” obliges all civil servants to be strictly apolitical and political campaigning work such as described is expressly forbidden. But the Cabinet Secretary, Heywood instructed civil servants to ignore the long-standing protocol and actively conspire to defeat Scots who wished to be free of Westminster control. What is particularly galling is that Francesca Osowska’s office funded all of it using finance that had been allocated to Scotland. Her statement that all activities completed for the Scotland Office, by Westminster civil servants would pass a propriety test stretches incredulity.

Much More here:

Labour still isn’t working for Glasgow and has left a poisoned legacy



Scottish National Heritage

In October 2017, in a surprise move, Osowska was seconded (for 3 years, maximum 2 terms) to the Scottish National Heritage Department as its Chief Executive replacing the incumbent, Ian Jardine, who was seconded (for 3 years, maximum 2 terms) to a newly created role, with the Scottish Government, as a National Adviser on environment policy with a remit to strengthen its EU-related analysis, engagement, and policy work.

Promoting the change, Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said:

“I am delighted to approve the appointment of Francesca Osowska as chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage. Francesca’s wealth of experience in leading transformational change and government policy should be a great asset to SNH, and I look forward to working with her. I also wish to pay tribute to Ian Jardine for his leadership of SNH over many years and I am very pleased that our work on future environment policy and regulation will gain from his extensive knowledge and experience, including of the European Union.”

Ian Jardine – Natural Heritage – Qualifications and Experience

Holds a Bachelor’s degree in Ecology and a Doctorate in Zoology.

Began his public service career in 1984 in the Scottish Office, working successively on urban renewal, housing policy, criminal justice, and industrial policy.

Joined the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland in 1991 as Regional Director and remained in that role with the formation of SNH in 1992.

Appointed Chief Executive of SNH in 2002.

Served on the Council of the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland 2005-2008.

President of Eurosite, a network for organizations managing protected areas in Europe, 2007-2010.

Member of ENCA (European Nature Conservation Agencies).

Worked with Europarc and IUCN/WCPA, including as a member of the World Protected Areas Leadership Forum

Francesca Orloska – Natural Heritage Qualifications and Experience


Comment: Giving Osowska  charge of a budget  in excess of £75m and management of a very large number of staff attracted criticism.

Both officers are still in place supporting the view that they will remain in their present posts until 2024.

Indeed it is feasible that one day soon they will be given peerages and a cushy well-renumerated lifestyle in the House of Lords.



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