THE Department for International Development (Dfid) would be unlikely to keep its headquarters in East Kilbride should Scots vote for independence, a powerful Commons committee was warned today.
Development Secretary Justine Greening told MPs on the international development select committee that the future of her department’s headquarters in Scotland which employed around 600 people and is worth £30 million to the East Kilbride economy, would need to be reviewed and would probably be moved if Scotland becomes a foreign country.
In evidence to the committee’s inquiry into the impact of independence she also warned the UK aid budget would be slashed should Scotland leave the UK and did not disagree with the committee’s estimate of an overall reduction of £900 million.
She said: “We would have to cut our cloth accordingly”.
She pointed out that Dfid staff at Abercrombie House in East Kilbride are playing a major role in the current humanitarean crisis in the Phillipines.
But she said that Dfid only has foreign offices to work with specific organisations such as the UN in New York and the World Bank in Washington.
She went on: “It would be challebnging to retain headquarters in two different countries.”
She added that there was “no logical reason” to base a department outside the UK.
She said: “Ultimately we would have to conduct a review of our operating model.”
Ms Greening accepted criticism that Dfid does not publicise its activities well enough in Scotland and said she would look at ways of letting scots know more about its work.
MPs were critical that the Scottish Government’s £9 million aid programme to Malawi is better known than the UK Government’s £10.7 billion programme.
East Kilbride MP Michael McCann, who has the Dfid HQ in his constituency, said: “One single Dfid project at Edinburgh University is worth £7 million but I knew nothing about that and that is wrong.”
Ms Greening also warned that if Scotland becomes independent it will lose world influence on international development.
She said: “International development is a great example of the power of doing things together. The Scottish people can be proud – as am I – of the contribution they make to the UK’s influential development programme. British expertise, through our aid agencies, our life-saving innovations and our emergency teams, makes a real difference across the world.
“As part of the UK, Scotland has a voice at major international organisations like the UN Security Council, NATO and the G8, and it is part of the big international conversations like the future of the Millennium Development Goals, currently being discussed by David Cameron’s expert panel. Independence would change all that.
“Looking at other countries of a comparable size, it is hard to imagine that an independent Scotland’s development office could employ as many staff as Dfid currently does in Scotland or deliver such large scale results around the world.”
International Development Minister, Humza Yousaf, said: “On the day that the Scottish Government has pledged hundreds of thousands of pounds for the Philippines’ Typhoon Appeal, a donation warmly welcomed by Scotland’s aid agencies, it beggars belief that the Tories attack Scotland’s ability to deliver on international development – and in doing so question the impact of other small European nations.
“The UK’s record is one of missed aid targets and broken promises. For 42 years in succession the UK failed to meet the United Nations aid target – equivalent to £87.5 billion of ‘missing aid’ according to House of Commons library research – and now they are rolling back on their own manifesto promise to protect the aid budget in law.
“In contrast to the Tory claims, and the very poor UK record on meeting aid targets, an independent Scotland can be a world leader in international development.”