Move to London if you want a promotion

Yes, Minister
Yes, Minister by D Huw Richardson, on Flickr.
I used to work in the Scottish branch of multinational corporation that — like so many others — has its UK HQ in London. During my years there I observed how management in London kept bringing more the people reporting to them down south to make things work more smoothly there. The effect might have been positive there, but the effect in Bishopbriggs was a dwindling number of employees and a strong feeling that you had to be willing to move away if you wanted a career.

My dear wife has also told me plenty of stories about uni friends who were told to relocate to London if they wanted a promotion. Some of them were able to move back to Scotland after a few years there, but others got stuck for life.

It was one of the consequences of moving to Scotland that I just wasn’t prepared for at all. In Denmark, it’s possible for almost everybody to spend their entire working life in that country without emigrating. In a few multinational companies, it might be preferable to spend a few years in other countries, but that’s generally only required for top management, not for people in the middle. So when I moved to Scotland, I naturally expected I would be able to have a career without flitting abroad once again.

I therefore found the Tories’ Devo Jam proposal (PDF) very interesting. Apart from the proposals for giving the Scottish Parliament full income tax powers, it contained the following on page 12 (my emphasis):

Civil servants obviously play a key role in the development and
commissioning of policy. We believe that the Scottish Government and Parliament should be able to call upon the best and brightest from across the Civil Service UK wide. We also believe that the rest of the UK would benefit from a Scottish view and accordingly recommend that civil servants who expect to reach the higher echelons of their profession in Scotland should spend a part of their career development in other parts of the UK.

In other words, they want to ensure that what I encountered in my previous job becomes obligatory in the Civil Service. You shouldn’t be able to spend your entire working life in Scotland unless you’re happy never to get promoted. If that means that your children grow up in England and effectively become English, that’s just the how things are if you’re Scottish. (One shouldn’t forget that because the education systems are different in Scotland and England, it’s not easy to move back and forwards if you have school-age kids — it’s the equivalent of moving between Copenhagen and Stockholm, not between Århus and Copenhagen.)

Would it be possible to imagine this rule applied to everybody, so that civil servants starting their career in Whitehall had to spend a number of years in Edinburgh, Cardiff or Belfast in order to gain a promotion? Of course not! It’s a way to enforce a UK mindset and to emphasise London’s role as the only place in the UK that really matters.

I want to live in a country where moving abroad is an option for the adventurous, not an obligation for a large part of the population. If my kids want to move abroad like I did, that’s fine, but I don’t want them to be forced to do so because there aren’t any decent jobs to get at home.

Incidentally creating more managerial jobs and company headquarters in Scotland will also increase the tax base, making it much easier to create a Scandinavian-style welfare state here. We can create a country where nobody is starving or homeless and nobody is forced to emigrate. We just need to vote Yes in September.

41 thoughts on “Move to London if you want a promotion”

  1. Which Civil Service do they mean? British or Scottish Government? As I understand it, the Scottish Government service is somewhat different, as are contact with lobbyists rules. I would not want the kind of cosy relationship that the London Civil Service becoming the norm at Holyrood.

    1. As far as I know, the Scottish Civil Service is part of the British CS. Yes, it has some autonomy, but it is still one organisation. So I think the Tories are saying they want the Scottish branch to integrate more closely with the rest.

  2. This is exactly wherwe we need to remember that your children don’t need to choose to “effectively become English” – exactly if their own country does not choose to be xenophobic and hateful enough to create a theoretical power to reject them from moving back. If there is any nat issue over career pressures to move to England, then it is totally unnecessary hypocrisy and contradiction in the nat position to leave any shred of doubt over automatic entitlement to Scottish citizenship for those of your ch who are born while you are serving your reluctant time in England.

    My campaign registering enquiry to the EC ensured that my latest enquiry to govt could not be brushed off just with “read the White Paper” and from the policy officer for migration and citizenship at Atlantic Quay comes this clearer answer, May 27: “Legislation would be made to establish detailed rules for Scottish citizenship in time for independence including both the evidence required and any discretionary elements. Therefore further details of the procedural requirements and administration of the relevant rules in relation to Scottish citizenship applications will be available when the legislation is drafted.” It is a clear policy of refusing to commit before we vote to any security at all for our exile-born offspring’s citizenship. Many reluctant movers to England who would otherwise have been happy to support, and if they are back here vote, Yes because of it, never foresaw that this resulting threat to their families could actually come from the Yes side.

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