September 18th 2014 | Scotland

Independence could leave UK departments short staffed

By Liam Kirkaldy

With a considerable proportion of their workforces based in Scotland, both the Ministry of Defence and the Department for International Development could face staff shortages if Scotland votes for independence, according to a report by the Institute for Government.

Around one third of DFID staff are based in East Kilbride, leading the report to warn that the Scottish Government’s stated ambition to become a “global leader in the field of international development” could lead to it acquiring the current workforce after a Yes, leaving the UK understaffed. 

The MoD has over 11,000 regular armed forces (7.5 per cent of the UK total) and 4,000 MoD civilian personnel (7.6 per cent of the UK total) based at around 50 defence bases across Scotland. 

Depending on negotiations, either these staff would be transferred to the Scottish Defence Force, moved out of Scotland or retained in the country as part of a joint defence agreement. 

The report also warns that an independent Scotland would seek to build up its own international service by recruiting from the ranks of experienced British diplomats from the Foreign Office. 

The Institute for Government examined the implications of the referendum, finding that each outcome would mean significant reform of the UK state.

Peter Riddell, Director of the Institute, said: “Several different proposals—nine in Scotland alone if there is a No vote — are on offer with sharply varying tax and spending implications for both Scotland and for the UK generally. Whatever the result, it is certain to mean big changes for both the UK and Scottish Governments.”

The two largest government departments in terms of headcount, HMRC and DWP, have over 21,000 staff based in Scotland (more than are employed by the whole Scottish Government), providing services across the UK. The report says that if Scotland had the same share of HMRC and DWP staff as its population share, it would have just 15,000 staff in these departments.

The institute suggests that some extra staff could transfer to the Scottish Civil Service to perform similar functions for an independent Scotland, for example, through the creation of Revenue Scotland. 
Others might transfer to other parts of the Scottish Government where new capacity would be needed (though retraining would be required).