Thursday, 14 November 2013

Back to business...

Contained within the dusty cobwebbed virtual shelves that make up BBC News Scotland's on line vault lies a wee story tucked away in the 'Glasgow & West' Section. Its gone now but I took a screen shot:

Independence aid jobs 'at risk' claim
The story suggests DFID jobs at Abercrombie House in East Kilbride could be put at risk if Scotland chooses independence. Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening said it would be "hard to imagine" Scotland employing as many staff.

There are 550 permanent and 50 contract staff working in East Kilbride for the DFID, over all the department has a budget of around £7 billion and a total workforce of 2700.

Casting about on the internet for info on how those clever Norwegians do things, they have The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (or NORAD) with a budget of some £27 billion Kroner (approx £2.6 billion.) Its a subsidiary of Norway's Ministry of Foreign Affairs which employs in total 2400 people across 110 foreign missions the aforementioned NORAD plus two other subsidiaries, FK Norway (a peace corps set up) and Norfund (a private equity company funded by the Norwegian state.)

NORAD has approximately 230 employees, a good deal less than the 600 working in East Kilbride, but it doesn't manage all of Norway's international aid program - much of which is integrated into other areas of Norway Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For comparison, the UK's Foreign & Commonwealth Office employs around 13,000 people and has a budget of £1.5 billion, its Department for International Development employs 2700 and has a budget of (approx) £7 billion. Norway manages to do both with a staff of 2400 and a budget of £3.4 billion (approx.)*

I know we like to talk about Norway and use it as an example to which we could aspire, when you compare it to how the UK government conducts its foreign affairs and international development, its actually a wee bit embarrassing.

Where the UK can be quite cynical about where it sends aid and the reasons for doing so, Norway is a lot more altruistic. I'm not saying they don't gain because they do, but so does the country to which the aid is being sent, its mutual. As an example here are two links both to the Huffington Post website: The first dated 02/01/2012 then the second dated 11/05/2012. Call me Cindy McCynical but it seems a bit odd that Britain would cancel aid worth around a quarter of a billion smacks to India months after they (India) snubbed a BAE-led consortium building Typhoons in favour of the French aircraft manufacturers Dassault building Rafales.

But I digress.

Its not so much about how much or on what you spend an international aid budget, its about whether Scotland would be able to. According to Justine Greening and no doubt many others with a vested interested in the retention of the union, it goes with out saying - Scotland probably couldn't.

Justine also suggested to Westminster's International Development Committee that disasters like Typhoon Haiyan were better dealt with by a United Kingdom - managing to employ a natural disaster to defend the status quo - which sort of figures when you think about it.

"We heard you were hit by a typhoon."

"Eh, would you like to buy some Typhoons?"

She warned the UK aid budget would be slashed by £900 million if Scotland left, but neglected to point out that if an SNP-led independent Scottish government was in power after 2016, Humza Yousaf (SNP External Affairs Minister) on its behalf pledged to exceed the 0.7% of GDP most European countries give by pledging 1% of Scotland's GDP for international aid. All of which means Scotland's aid budget would be around £1.5 billion - replacing the £900 million Justine said would be 'slashed' from the rUK's aid budget.

I know some unionists have problems identifying higher figures from lower ones but, £1.5 billion is definitely more than £900 million. Bearing that in mind, Justine Greening is - as you would probably imagine anyway - talking mince.

Finally, if you don't agree with Scotland having such a generous aid budget then don't vote for the SNP, wait and see what the other parties are offering. Do remember though, if you are contemplating a 'no' vote in September next year, nothing will change one way or the other because Scottish votes in Westminster elections rarely count.

These days it doesn't really matter what Westminster party you vote for, in terms of policy, there's barely a gnat's chuff-width between them. If you want your vote to count, it'll only happen with a fully autonomous Scottish Parliament.

As you well know.

* If - like me - you were wondering how Norway managed to do more with a lot less and still be ahead of the UK in giving international aid. In cash terms the UK does spend more, but only because our economy is five times bigger than Norway's. Aid is worked out as a percentage of GDP, not as a mean sum of money. Ergo, Norway spends a higher percentage of its GDP (nominal)** (GDP $485,416 25th largest) than does the UK (GDP $2,429,184  7th largest.)

** Not to be confused with GDP per capita (meaning cash per person) where Norway enjoys being in 4th position and the UK languishes down in the doldrums in 21st place - (World Bank figures.) Scotland's place? According to OECD figures - 6th largest (rUK 16th.)


  1. Justine, bless her incompetent little socks, in her haste to make political capital out of the disaster, even managed to forget what country she was dealing with. She was about to send aid to Indonesia!

    I'd think that one of the reason that Uk foreign affairs thing costs so much money for so little return, is that like everything else London does, it's all about grandeur.

    Wherever you go the British Embassy is always bigger and more prestigious looking than other European countries' buildings, and the residences of the ambassadors are like royal palaces in many cases.

    Of course every country spends money to make their embassy and residence smart, and probably very few ambassadors take the metro, but we waste so much money on Rolls Royces and servants for the elevated...pretending we are still empire powers.

    This fur coat and no knickers serves, like so much else, only very few top people.

    As for aid, apparently, under the Michell character, it was one of the most inefficient of all departments, sending computers to villages with no electricity and bus tracking devices to towns where they already had them installed.

    I hardly think that the hapless justine will have made much of an improvement.

    Additionally, the Indian government has begged the UK to stop sending them aid as they don't need it or want it. Sure they have problems but the piddling sums that they receive from Britain are insulting, and badly directed and far too small to do any good, even if they were sent to the right palces.


  2. Indeed.

    Its not an area I've ever looked at before and while I'm sure there is some benefit, the norm seems to be that aid from the UK may contain caveats - which is wrong.

    Looking at Norway with its Norfund set up, its basically a state funded venture capitalist company but without the rapacious western capitalist objectives. They seem to prefer mutual benefit over a quick buck - which seems to be a far better way to comport ones foreign affairs.

    So to speak... ;-)

  3. It is where to start, I am sorry to say.

    I am, by nature, someone who does not prejudge others until I have had the pleasure and opportunity to know them beyond first impressions, of which I admit to wrong in a statistically significant fashion.

    I looked at Mr Carmichael, at his half noose tie and his hallowe'en cake face and thought, let him speak.

    I have heard him speak and I am sorry but can hold it back no longer. He is down amongst the level of Johann Lamont even beyond Ian Grey.

    Are the London unionists seriously taking the piss or do they really not understand Scotland and believe the hard man "being there" adolatory crap which allowed these no-mark, no-hopers be promoted their level of incompetence of the Village Fete Committee?

    This man, for many reasons, has put the last nail in the coffin that was the SoS Office; please a YES and thus no more of these twats.

    I am beginning to think that I could be a better an SoS than him and I admit to being a ranter with no coherent sentences.

    We ned and can do better than this lot, without breaking sweat.

    Just think what decent Scottish politicians could do if they understood what they were doing and worked for the Scottish People?

    But then they would be in the SNP.

  4. Aye.

    I try not to prejudge either, but Westminster seems to have a knack of appointing donkeys.

    Oh well. All grist to the mill.


Thanks for comment as always and I apologise if you have to jump through any hoops to do so. Its just that, I'm still being spammed by organisations who are certain I can't get it up or when it is up its not big enough or that I don't have anyone to get it up for.

Who knew blogging could be so bad for ones self-confidence?