SNP MP Angus MacNeil has welcomed recommendations by the Public Administration Select Committee calling for the Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland Offices to be merged into one Department for Constitutional Affairs.
In paragraph 61, the report states: “Merging together these departments would not involve a major reorganisation given the relatively small size of the three respective offices. The most recent figures available show that the Scottish Office currently employs 100 full time equivalents (FTE), the Welsh Office 60 and the Northern Ireland Office 110.This change would save two Cabinet posts and one junior minister. It would also enable devolution issues to be considered in the round, rather than treating it as three separate bilateral relationships. In addition, as the devolution settlements become more similar, with Northern Ireland having recently gained policing and justice powers and Wales having voted to acquire primary legislation powers, the case for treating each separately is diminishing.”
Commenting, Mr MacNeil said: “In the decade since devolution, the Scotland Office has been of neither use nor ornament to the people of Scotland. In tough times this is money that could be spent on better things.
“The Committee is right to say no money should be wasted on Whitehall when cuts are being made to frontline services. Ditching the useless Scotland Office is a good place to start. In 1999, the department’s budget was £3.7m – by 2010 this had soared to £8.7m.
“UK Ministers should work with the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to develop direct channels of communications that serve the best interest of the devolved nations instead of clinging on to the ghosts of governments past.”