The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland supports the Secretary of State in promoting the best interests of Scotland within a stronger United Kingdom. It ensures Scottish interests are fully and effectively represented at the heart of the UK Government, and the UK Government’s responsibilities are fully and effectively represented in Scotland.
Alister JackSecretary of State for Scotland
Oral Answers to Questions is a regularly scheduled appearance where the Secretary of State and junior minister will answer at the Dispatch Box questions from backbench MPsOther Commons Chamber appearances can be:
Westminster Hall debates are performed in response to backbench MPs or e-petitions asking for a Minister to address a detailed issue
Written Statements are made when a current event is not sufficiently significant to require an Oral Statement, but the House is required to be informed.
Scotland Office does not have Bills currently before Parliament
Scotland Office has not passed any Acts during the 2019 Parliament
e-Petitions are administered by Parliament and allow members of the public to express support for a particular issue.
If an e-petition reaches 10,000 signatures the Government will issue a written response.
If an e-petition reaches 100,000 signatures the petition becomes eligible for a Parliamentary debate (usually Monday 4.30pm in Westminster Hall).
Commons Select Committees are a formally established cross-party group of backbench MPs tasked with holding a Government department to account.
At any time there will be number of ongoing investigations into the work of the Department, or issues which fall within the oversight of the Department. Witnesses can be summoned from within the Government and outside to assist in these inquiries.
Select Committee findings are reported to the Commons, printed, and published on the Parliament website. The government then usually has 60 days to reply to the committee's recommendations.
Scotland Office officials and officials from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) have been working closely with officials in the Devolved Administrations, including in the Scottish Government, throughout the development of proposals regarding the now published draft Online Safety Bill, and will continue to engage throughout the legislative process.
The new regulatory framework will hold platforms to account for tackling harmful content and behaviours online.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland sponsors one Non-Departmental Public Body, the Boundary Commission for Scotland. The Boundary Commission for Scotland is responsible for reviews of UK Parliament constituencies in Scotland.
The relationship between the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland and the Boundary Commission for Scotland is governed by a Memorandum of Understanding. This acknowledges the Boundary Commission for Scotland’s performance of the duties given to it by Parliament as an independent body, while following the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland’s best practice in financial and corporate governance. The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland reports bi-annually to the department’s Audit and Risk Assurance Committee, on the sponsorship relationship.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland’s accounts include the costs of the Boundary Commission for Scotland, which are audited by the National Audit Office. The Boundary Commission for Scotland prepares an annual report, which is available on the Boundary Commission for Scotland’s website. This is in addition to progress reports, which are compiled when the Commission is undertaking a Review, and are submitted to the Speaker of the House of Commons. These progress reports are published on the Boundary Commission for Scotland’s website annually, in January.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland (OSSS) has received 122 items of correspondence from honourable Members since 1 April 2020.
In that period, OSSS Ministers answered 104 items, OSSS officials answered five items and one item was transferred to another UK Government department. Six items of correspondence are yet to be answered.
A further six items did not require a response or were answered by way of discussion.
I refer the honourable Gentleman to my answer of 1 July to question 21266, to my answer of 16 June to question 13125 and to my answer of 9 June to question 10486. Information about Ministerial meetings with external organisations for the period January to March 2021 is due to be published on gov.uk on 15 July 2021.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland incurred the following actual costs for the financial years listed:
These costs relate to our Edinburgh office. The energy charges for Dover House, our London office, are not separately identifiable and are part of the service charge. In 2021, our Edinburgh office relocated to the new UK Government hub in Edinburgh. Energy charges are now similarly part of the service charge.
The Office has referred Freedom of Information requests for advice on handling to the Cabinet Office’s clearing house for Freedom of Information requests since 2016, in accordance with the referral criteria which are available at the following link: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/cabinet-office-and-freedom-of-information.
I refer the Hon Gentleman to my answers of 9 and 16 June to questions 10486 and 13125 respectively. The government publishes details of Ministerial meetings with external organisations on a quarterly basis. Information for the period January to March 2021 is due to be published on gov.uk in July 2021.
The UK Government is providing continued UK-wide support and security to manage the ongoing impacts of Covid-19.
One in three jobs in Scotland has been supported by the UK Government’s unprecedented employment support package.
Scottish businesses have benefited from more than £3.4 billion of loans and support driven by UK Government schemes.
We have also provided a much needed boost to Scottish tourism and hospitality with our UK-wide VAT reduction.
We have agreed a deal with the EU which delivers for Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Our deal provides Scottish businesses with exceptional access to the EU’s market - It is the first time the EU has ever agreed a zero tariffs, zero quota deal.
This provides the right conditions for the Scottish economy to recover from the Covid pandemic and flourish in the future.
My Department does not operate a red, amber, and green rating system for categorising Freedom of Information requests according to their presentational sensitivity.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland has made no assessment of artificial intelligence in respect of its responsibilities.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland does not use artificial intelligence in the implementation of its policies and has not incurred any such expenditure.
I refer the Hon. Member for Kilmarnock and Loudoun to the answer of 9 June 2021 to Question 10486. Ministerial meetings with external organisations are published on gov.uk.
Ministers of the Office for the Secretary of State for Scotland meet regularly with representatives of Scottish renewables companies to discuss a range of energy matters of importance to Scotland. Policy on marine and tidal projects is a matter for the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.
As the Secretary of State for Scotland, I have responsibility for the Scotland Act and I am the custodian of the Scottish devolution settlement. The role of the Lord Advocate is protected in the Scotland Act 1998. I have not received any representations from the Scottish Government to amend it in this way.
Since the independent Union Connectivity Review (UCR) began in November 2020 it has published a call for evidence, which attracted 145 responses and has led sector specific roundtables with around 100 organisations. The UCR did not receive a submission from the Scottish Government or Transport Scotland. Sir Peter Hendy, who is leading the review, has spoken to Ministers in the Scottish and Welsh Governments and the Northern Ireland Executive.
The Office delivers public information campaigns in Scotland to communicate important messages to the public, such as national awareness campaigns and policy initiatives. Total Office expenditure on digital campaigns from 1 October 2020 to 24 March 2021 was as follows:
Facebook & Instagram
* The Office has not run any public information campaigns since 24 March 2021, in line with pre-election requirements.
The Communications team cost for 2019-20 was £870,159, and for 2020-21 was £906,177.
The Office is resourced to enable effective engagement and communication with the public and organisations across Scotland. These functions have been essential to supporting the UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and providing information to people and businesses as we left the EU.
My officials and I are in regular contact with counterparts from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs on a range of issues of importance to the seafood sector in Scotland, including the establishment of the UK Government's new £100 million support fund. We will provide further information after 6 May.
UK Government Ministers are in frequent contact with Scottish Government Ministers on all aspects of the response to Covid-19, including the vaccination programme.
The UK Government's vaccine taskforce has successfully procured the vaccines we need and ensured they are available to all across the whole of the UK.
The Government remains deeply disappointed with the BBC’s decision to restrict the over-75 licence fee concession to only those in receipt of pension credit.
We recognise the value of free TV licences for over-75s in Scotland and the rest of the UK and believe they should be funded by the BBC.
Scotland Office Ministers are in regular discussions with Ministerial colleagues and the Scottish Government on the preparations for COP26 in Glasgow.
My Rt hon Friend the Secretary of State met the COP President last month and Scotland Office Ministers attended the COP26 Devolved Administration Ministerial Group.
I discuss a wide range of issues relating to the Coronavirus pandemic with Cabinet colleagues on a regular basis. However, The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland is not the lead UK Government Department responsible for the NHS Test and Trace database system policy. The lead department is the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
Public Health is a devolved matter in Scotland. NHS Scotland has created NHS Test and Protect and supports the Scottish Government’s test, trace, isolate and support strategy.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland is not the lead UK Government Department responsible for the NHS Test and Trace database system and does not therefore develop policy relating to the use of the system. The lead department is the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland is not the lead UK Government Department responsible for the NHS Test and Trace database system, therefore does not allocate resources, including financial resources to investigate future uses of the system. The lead department is the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC).
DHSC has been clear that blanket application of DNACPRs is unacceptable and that standards and quality of care should be maintained even in pressurised circumstances.
It is important that we work across the health and care system, throughout the whole of the UK, to build understanding of the role DNACPR decisions play in high quality personalised care. Any advanced care decisions, including DNACPRs, must be discussed with patients and families, who must be given all the relevant information and any critical decisions must be made on an individual basis.
As Public Health is a devolved matter, I would call on the incoming Scottish Government, following Scottish elections in May, to listen to patients, families and care organisations who have serious concerns about the use of DNACPR orders during the covid pandemic.
The Scotland Office has regular discussions with other UK Government Departments and the Scottish Government regarding COP26 and I am confident that preparations are in good shape.
The Secretary of State for Scotland has raised concerns previously about BBC Scotland broadcasting the First Minister's daily press briefing, which so frequently is about SNP politics rather than public health information. In the run-up to the Holyrood elections, BBC Scotland must look carefully at its legal requirement for impartiality.
We are continuing to support the Scottish hospitality sector through a combination of UK Government initiatives.
This includes the now extended VAT reduction for the sector and support for businesses, such as business loans, which includes the new Recovery Loan Scheme.
This is in addition to the extended furlough scheme and grants for the self-employed.
This Government understands that the cultural and creative sectors rely on the ability to move people across borders quickly, simply, and with minimal cost and administration.
We are now working urgently across Government and in collaboration with the music and wider creative industries, including through a new working group which includes the devolved administrations, to help address these issues.
The Scottish economy continues to gain hugely from the UK Government’s ambitious investments in data connectivity.
I want to see every area of Scotland, including the constituency of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, be able to take full advantage of the digital technology available.
This year my Ministerial colleagues and I have had an unprecedented number of meetings with Scottish exporters and their sectoral representative organisations.
On issues like supporting seafood, this Government has held extensive consultations with the industry.
We have been working tirelessly to resolve issues around the new arrangements for getting our world class seafood to customers in Europe.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland is not responsible for the funding of either a ‘Union Unit’ or ‘Union Taskforce’.
As the Secretary of State for Scotland, I have responsibility for the Scotland Act and I am the custodian of the Scottish devolution settlement. In that role, I hold regular meetings with a range of external stakeholders on a variety of subjects and listen to their views. I regularly feed these views back to my ministerial colleagues where appropriate.
The Government remains clear in its support for Scotch Whisky, and other Scottish spirits, and we have taken action to this end. The freeze in spirits duty at Budget 2020 and at five of the six budgets before that ensured the price of a typical bottle of Scotch is £1.54 lower than it otherwise would have been since ending the spirits duty escalator in 2014.
More broadly, the Government announced at the 2020 Budget it would review the alcohol duty system in the round. A call for evidence concluded in November and further announcements will be made in due course.
There are currently 134 operating Scotch Whisky distilleries across Scotland. More than 10,000 people are directly employed in the Scotch Whisky industry in Scotland and over 40,000 jobs across the UK are supported by the industry. 7,000 of these jobs are in rural areas of Scotland providing vital employment and investment to communities across the Highlands and Islands and elsewhere in Scotland.
This Government fully recognises the important contribution the Scotch Whisky industry makes to rural communities which is why we continue to support the industry in a number of different ways, for example:
Scotch Whisky producers are just some of the many businesses across Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom that have come up with new and innovative ways to battle the coronavirus, and supported wider efforts to tackle the pandemic.
The many donations from local distilleries to the NHS provided huge quantities of hand sanitiser to keep frontline health and care workers safe. Scotch Whisky distillers joined by other distillers have not just helped their local communities in Scotland, but their manufacturing of hand sanitiser has helped all parts of the United Kingdom.
This was an initiative coordinated by the Scotch Whisky Association, which many distilleries participated in. The initiative has helped protect the health of millions of people in communities across Scotland. HMRC worked with the Scotch Whisky Association to allow distillers to manufacture sanitiser without needing to pay duty on the alcohol in it, when it has been made to WHO specifications.
In 2020, Scotch Whisky exports were worth £3.8bn (down from £4.9bn in 2019). In 2019, Scotch Whisky accounted for 75% of Scottish food and drink exports, 21% of all UK food and drink exports, and 1.4% of all UK goods exports. The Scotch Whisky industry provides £5.5bn in Gross Value Added (GVA) to the UK economy.
There are more than 10,000 people directly employed in the Scotch Whisky industry in Scotland and over 40,000 jobs across the UK are supported by the industry. In 2018, there were 2.2 million visits to Scotch Whisky distilleries, making the industry the third most popular tourist attraction in Scotland.
I am in regular discussion with the Chancellor and wrote to him raising this and other matters on 2 February.
The question of Scottish independence was settled decisively in 2014 when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK. The UK Government continues to respect that result.
The UK Government is constantly communicating the benefits of Scotland being part of the United Kingdom and will continue to do so in future through a range of methods. These benefits have been clear recently in, for example, the unprecedented economic support offered to people and businesses in Scotland during the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK Government’s investment in vaccines, ensuring that we have UK-funded, affordable doses available across the whole of the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, there is little doubt there are many unanswered questions about the practicalities and impact of leaving the UK, not least around important issues like currency, defence, the fiscal transfer and the sustainability of public spending in Scotland at its current levels. These are all of direct relevance to the lives of people in Scotland.
The requested public information campaign materials promoted by the Department are freely and publically available for anyone to view online at the Facebook Ads Library:
In the last financial year, 2019-20, the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland (OSSS) and Office of the Advocate General (OAG) Annual Report and Accounts reported total spend of £9,427,000 in staff costs, including wages, social security, pensions, and VAT charged on staffing costs where applicable. This equates to a monthly average expenditure on staffing of £785,583.
In the same financial year, £1,071,553 was spent on staffing costs for staff primarily responsible for media, digital, and stakeholder communications and public information campaigns for OSSS and OAG. This equates to a monthly average expenditure of £89,296.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland remains committed to apprenticeships as part of a modern employment route into the Civil Service and across the wider economy.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland does not employ staff directly; all staff that join - including apprentices - do so on an assignment, loan or secondment from other Government bodies.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland, has previously, and continues to recruit Modern Apprentices through Scottish Government and the Ministry of Justice. However, due to the number involved, an estimate of apprentices working at the Department cannot be provided to protect the privacy and identity of those concerned.
The Office has not commissioned any contracts for polling public attitudes in Scotland in the last three years.
Reviewing connections between the nations will be critical as we look to recover the economy from the Covid-19 pandemic. Therefore, I welcomed the announcement from the Prime Minister of the Union Connectivity Review, which is being led by Sir Peter Hendy, Chairman of Network Rail, and I look forward to seeing the interim report that is due to be published later this month.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland has worked closely with the Department for Transport on the Union Connectivity Review and has engaged with a number of stakeholders covering a range of industries across the United Kingdom on this.
The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Scotland, Minister Stewart, also wrote to all Local Authorities in Scotland, recommending they submit their suggestions for the review into the Call for Evidence that was held in December.
The UK Government, through the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA), have provided two locum vets to Food Standards Scotland (FSS) from 1 February 2021 as requested by FSS. The UK Government has provided all the resource which FSS have requested and will continue to work closely with FSS should any more requests be made.
The referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 was legal, fair and decisive and people in Scotland voted by a significant margin to remain part of the UK. The Edinburgh Agreement committed both the UK and Scottish Governments to respect the referendum’s outcome. The UK Government continues to do that and the Prime Minister wrote to the First Minister of Scotland in January 2020 to confirm he cannot agree to any request for a transfer of power from the UK Parliament to the Scottish Parliament that would lead to further independence referendums. The UK Government’s full focus is on keeping people safe and driving our economic recovery from Covid-19.
Following best practice set out in the Government Communications Service (GCS) Modern Communications Operating Model (MCOM), the Office is resourced to deliver all of the communications functions and activities expected and required of a government department in its own right and on behalf of the UK Government in Scotland.
(a) Total Office expenditure in each month from August 2020 to December 2020, including staffing, on delivering all of these functions was:
(b) & (c) The Office delivers public information campaigns in Scotland to communicate important messages to the public, such as national awareness campaigns and policy initiatives. Total Office expenditure in each month from August 2020 to December 2020, promoting public information was:
I can confirm that I have regular discussions with the Chancellor on this matter.