MPs warn independence would shrink Scotland’s role in transformational development work

by Alastair Osborne, LCID Scottish Officer

When it comes to the debate over Scottish independence, we believe strongly that the return of a Labour Government in 2015 would provide the best opportunity for progressive post 2015 international development goals to be pursued and achieved. We do not feel this should be put at risk by going down the unmarked road of Scottish Independence.

We welcome debate on this issue, writing about it here on our blog. This week the cross party International Development Select Committee has published its report on “Implications for development in the event of Scotland becoming an independent country.” (published 19 December 2013)

Read the full report here. According to the report, an independent Scotland would no longer be able to make a ‘transformational’ contribution to international development.

Sir Malcolm Bruce, Chair of the Committee and MP for Gordon, said:

“The UK’s aid programme, much of which is delivered from Scotland, is genuinely transformational. The UK provided £8.7 billion of aid in 2012/13, but it is the quality of this aid – not just its quantity – which sets the UK apart.

DFID [the Department for International Development] is a world leader in its field, and as a big player on the world stage, the UK also wields considerable influence in multilateral organisations. One example is the World Bank, where the UK has the power to appoint one of the Executive Directors.

As part of the UK, Scotland makes a tremendous contribution to all this. Scots have served as development Ministers in the UK Government and three Scottish MPs, including myself, sit on the International Development Committee.

If Scotland were to become an independent country, its development agency would inevitably be a much smaller player.”

From 2013 onwards, the UK Government plans to spend 0.7% of Gross National Income on Official Development Assistance. If Scotland were to become independent, the UK’s overall GNI – and the amount of money it spends on ODA – would fall.

Scotland has 8.3% of the UK’s population share, so we estimate that the UK’s ODA would fall by around 8.3%, or £1 billion. DFID’s work – either its bilateral programmes or its funding to multilateral organisations – would inevitably then be subject to cuts.

MPs are also concerned that during any transitional period, the restructuring of DFID and the setup of an independent Scottish development agency would divert management attention towards restructuring and away from frontline delivery by both agencies.

In addition, the report notes that a significant proportion of DFID’s workforce is based at its Scottish office in East Kilbride, including a number of senior staff. By contrast, the number of jobs available with an independent Scottish development agency is likely to be relatively few (or the new Scottish development agency would be heavily overstaffed). Estimates indicate the new agency would employ just over a hundred staff in its headquarters, compared to the 604 staff and contractors currently working in DFID’s office in East Kilbride.

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