The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland—known as the Scotland Office—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.
The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland lists its objectives as:
Joint Ministerial Committees (JMCs) are meetings of Ministers from the UK and devolved Governments. The JMC, in its plenary form, is a meeting between the Prime Minister and the devolved First Ministers as well as the UK Government territorial Secretaries of State that is expected to meet once a year. It is intended to be the primary heads of government forum in which the devolved administrations can air their views to the UK Government.
There are a number of sub-committees that meet to consider specific issues. There are currently two JMC sub-committees—the JMC (Europe) and JMC (European Negotiations). The former meets roughly four or five times a year to consult on UK Government positions on EU issues which affect devolved matters ahead of European Council meetings.
The JMC’s remit is to consider non-devolved matters which impinge on devolved responsibilities, and devolved matters which impinge on non–devolved responsibilities;
COBR or COBRA (Cabinet Office Briefing Room) is shorthand for the Civil Contingencies Committee that is convened to handle matters of national emergency or major disruption. Its purpose is to coordinate different departments and agencies in response to such emergencies. COBR is the acronym for Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms, a series of rooms located in the Cabinet Office in 70 Whitehall.
Ministerial Implementation Groups (MIGs) are a form of Cabinet Committee. Cabinet committees are groups of ministers that can “take collective decisions that are binding across government”. They are partly designed to reduce the burden on the full cabinet by allowing smaller groups of ministers to take decisions on specific policy areas. These committees have been around in some form since the early 20th century.
MIGs have been used during the coronavirus pandemic. Four new implementation committees were created focusing on health, public sector preparedness, economy and international response.
The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) is responsible for ensuring that timely and coordinated scientific advice is made available to decision makers to support UK cross-government decisions in the Cabinet Office Briefing Room (COBR). The advice provided by SAGE does not represent official government policy. SAGE has been activated to advise on the UK Government’s response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic”.
During the pandemic SAGE has typically been Chaired by the UK Government Chief Scientific Advisor Patrick Vallance and Chief Medical Advisor, Professor Chris Whitty.
Members of SAGE come from over 20 different institutions, covering a broad range of scientific expertise. Amongst the members of the group are the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, Dr Gregor Smith, the Chief Scientific Adviser for Scotland, Dr Sheila Rowan, and Professor Andrew Morris, Chair of the Scottish Government COVID-19 Advisory Group.
The Scottish Government has appointed its own scientific advisory group: the Scottish Government Covid-19 Advisory Group.
This group was formed as “the Scottish Ministers, the Chief Medical Officer and Deputy Chief Medical Officer in Scotland, in consultation with the Chief Scientific Advisor for Scotland have identified the need for additional scientific analysis of the impact of COVID-19 in Scotland, based on regularly updated advice and modelling from the UK Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE), and other emerging scientific evidence”. It meets every Thursday.
It is chaired by Professor Andrew Morris, Professor of Medicine at the University of Edinburgh and Director of Health Data Research UK. The Group reports through the Chief Medical Officer directly to Ministers in Scotland.
The Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC) was announced on 10 May to bring together expertise and analysis to inform decisions on tackling Covid-19. It brings together experts on disease incidence and control—epidemiologists—with other analysts from across government to give UK Government ministers, via the Chief Medical Officer, joined up advice on decisions about managing the disease.
The JBC intends to look at evidence and biosecurity threats in England, although the Government has said it “will engage with the devolved administrations to explore how the centre can operate most effectively across the UK, as it is established”
On 5 June the JBC announced the appointment of its Director General Claire Gardiner and currently has just under 200 staff.
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Published: 23 July 2020