The Office of The Secretary of State for Scotland announced on Thursday its plans to relocate the department from Melville Crescent to a new UK Government Hub at the New Waverley Development in Edinburgh City Centre.
The announcement has led to a lot of speculation on Social Media that Secretary of State David Mundell and an “army” of 2,900 Civil Servants will use this hub as a base to implement the anticipated “power grab” following the recent passing into law of the European Union (Withdrawal) Bill.
So here is what we know….
The UK Government signed a minimum of 20 Years lease on 190,000 sq ft of offices at the new development in July 2017. A few months later, in October 2017, Legal & General acquired the two linked office buildings from developers Artisan Real Estate Investors. This makes New Waverley the fourth UK Government Hub to be owned by Legal & General following similar deals in Bristol, Cardiff and Liverpool.
The length of the deal may raise some eyebrows given the current uncertainty surrounding the future of Scotland’s position in the UK and the growing support for independence. I would hazard a guess though that when Scotland does become independent then it’s own agencies would likely occupy the premises.
The development is still under construction with an estimated completion date of June 2019. It is thought the UK Government will start work out of the new offices sometime in 2020.
Now we come to the “army” of 2,900 who will work out of the new hub building…the majority of these will be working for HMRC (more on this later). Other UK Government departments relocating to New Waverley include the Office for Statistics Regulation, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the Government Actuary’s Department and HM Treasury.
An interesting point, which many are not aware of, is that the Office of The Secretary of State for Scotland does not directly employ any staff of its own. All those working in the department are seconded from other government departments, with the majority coming from the Department of Justice and the Scottish Government.
Coming back to the HMRC situation…In 2017 the UK Government announced that 17 regional tax offices in Scotland would close to be replaced by 2 new “Super Centres” in Edinburgh and Glasgow leading to a loss of around 2,000 jobs. The New Waverley UK Government Hub will be home to the Edinburgh “Super Centre”.
The 17 offices being closed are located in Aberdeen, Bathgate, Cumbernauld, Dundee (x2), East Kilbride (x3), Edinburgh (x3), Glasgow (x2), Inverness, Livingston, Irvine and Glenrothes.
Lest we forget, we were informed by the Better Together side that these job losses would never happen if we voted to stay in the UK.
With the HMRC office closures another Better Together promise bites the dust. pic.twitter.com/ShLK6BSXV4
— Martin MacDonald (@Innealadair) December 14, 2016
So, in conclusion, based on the evidence currently available I would say that the creation of this new UK Government Hub at New Waverley is nothing more sinister than a cost saving exercise but then again given the track record of the current UK Government who knows what the future might bring.