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by Margaret Taylor
11 December 2023
Foreign Office to move from East Kilbride to Glasgow in bid to hit staffing targets

The Foreign Office has had a base in East Kilbride since 1981 | Alamy

Foreign Office to move from East Kilbride to Glasgow in bid to hit staffing targets

The Foreign Office is to quit its longstanding East Kilbride base in favour of premises in central Glasgow as it struggles to meet its target of redeploying 500 roles to Scotland.

In 2021 it was announced that the UK Government would send 500 members of Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) staff to Scotland as part of its levelling-up agenda.

That would bring the total number working in the government department's Scottish base to 1,500, with then foreign secretary Dominic Raab saying the move would ensure the civil service "represents all parts of the UK".

However, it is understood that the FCDO has struggled to meet that target due to being unable to lure staff members to East Kilbride, where it and predecessor departments including the Department for International Development have worked out of Abercrombie House since 1981.

HMRC, which currently leases Queensway House in East Kilbride, will take over the government-owned building following the move, with 1,700 members of staff moving across. The switch is not expected to happen until 2025. 

A spokesperson for the UK Government confirmed that no jobs would be lost as part of the plan, although it is understood that the FCDO will take a tougher stance on hybrid working following the move, with staff expected to spend significantly more time in the office than is currently mandated.

“The FCDO is growing its presence and number of staff in Scotland," the government spokesperson said.

"To widen their future talent pool, FCDO is relocating to a modern building in central Glasgow, confirming the government’s long-term commitment to Scotland.

"HMRC will be moving into Abercrombie House, which is a building that is already part of the UK Government estate, providing better value for money to the taxpayer and which will continue to boost the economy of East Kilbride.

"HMRC is still at the early stages of plans for the building and hopes to confirm timelines in the spring.”

It comes at a time when relations between Holyrood and Westminster have become ever-more frosty, with new foreign secretary David Cameron threatening to shut down the Scottish Government's overseas development offices after First Minister Humza Yousaf met with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan without an FCDO official present.

Writing to constitution secretary Angus Robertson, Cameron said the meeting between Yousaf and Erdogan, which took place at COP28 earlier this month, breached protocol, adding that it is "critical that the UK presents a consistent message to our international partners and that devolution settlements are respected". 

Yousaf responded by saying that Cameron’s letter was “petty” and his approach “completely misguided”.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack, meanwhile, told a session of the Scottish Affairs Committee this afternoon that several other Scottish Government ministers had "resisted" the rule that requires them to have an FCDO official with them during meetings with overseas representatives.

In terms of the Scottish office move, the UK Government said the FCDO is still in the process of identifying a Glasgow base.

HMRC, meanwhile, will maintain its presence in Glasgow. The department moved into purpose-built premises at Atlantic Square last year after originally signing a lease on the property in 2018.

At the time of the move the office was home to 2,600 HMRC staff as well as 270 Cabinet Office staff. As part of the levelling-up plans the government said those numbers would grow to to 3,500 by 2025, with 500 in the Cabinet Office and the rest working for HMRC. 

HMRC confirmed that all new recruits for the expansion would be hired into the Glasgow office and not East Kilbride. 

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