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MPs look at Civil Service’s dual role supporting UK and Scottish Governments

29 February 2024

The Scottish Affairs Committee, based in the UK Parliament, launches a new inquiry looking at the challenges and opportunities which arise from having a single, unified Civil Service working for both the UK and Scottish Governments.

A unified Home Civil Service works to deliver the objectives of the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments, and leadership of the UK Civil Service sits with the Cabinet Secretary, currently Simon Case. Civil servants in a number of UK Government departments work on issues affecting Scotland and are required to abide by the UK’s Civil Service Code, setting out the civil service values of honesty, integrity, objectivity, and impartiality.

The Committee aims to explore the implications of these arrangements. It will examine whether collaboration between civil servants supporting the UK and Scottish Governments is working in a way which benefits both administrations.

The Committee invites written evidence submissions from experts and interested parties on the inquiry’s terms of reference.

Chair's comment

Commenting on the new inquiry, Pete Wishart MP, Chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, said:

“Civil servants in Scotland and, indeed across the whole UK, do a fantastic job of helping to carry out the agendas upon which their respective governments were elected. They are a hugely important resource and they deserve to be given the right tools to do their jobs effectively and in line with the agendas of the govts they serve.

“As a Committee, we will be looking closely at this model of a unified Civil Service supporting two governments to ensure the system is working in a way which enables civil servants to deliver the highest possible standard of public service for the people of Scotland.”

Terms of reference

The Committee invites written submissions by Friday 5 April. These should focus on any of the below questions:

  • How effectively do UK and Scottish Government officials work together? Has the relationship between officials of the two Governments varied over time? 
  • Are there any steps that could be taken to (further) improve the relationship between officials of the two Governments? Should there be more interchange of officials between the two administrations?
  • What benefits does a unified Home civil service offer for intergovernmental relations? Could these benefits be better realised?
  • How does the reservation of certain policy areas under the devolution settlement, together with the duties set out in the Scottish Civil Service Code, affect the work and responsibilities of civil servants supporting Scottish Ministers? 
  • What legal and political issues do increasing policy divergence between the UK and Scottish Governments, and an increasingly complex interaction between reserved and devolved policy areas, present for the unified Home Civil Service? 
  • What challenges could these trends present for official impartiality? Is further support or guidance on these issues needed for officials or Ministers?
  • What could other international or domestic contexts tell us about how these challenges can be navigated?

Further information

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