Scottish football legend Ally McCoist paid tribute to 26 officials who served for 40 years in a government building he worked in when it opened.
The Rangers and Scotland forward turned television and radio personality was one of 350 employees hired when the then Overseas Development Administration opened Abercrombie House in East Kilbride in 1981.
The building was officially opened by then Foreign Secretary Lord Carrington 40 years ago today (Tuesday) and now houses nearly 1,000 employees as the joint headquarters of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
Although Mr McCoist, now 59, only worked there for five months as an office assistant before his footballing career began, he paid tribute to the former colleagues he worked with during the opening of the building.
Former International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan next to a commemorative plague during her visit to Abercrombie House in February 2020.
The footballer, who played part-time with St Johnstone at the time, said: “It’s amazing to think that 26 of the people I worked with when Abercrombie House opened are still here today. If you ask me, they all deserve a George Cross in recognition of this service.
âIt was a huge boost for East Kilbride that the building opened. I still remember my first day, getting off the # 77 Calderwood bus and walking into this amazing new place as a civil servant.
âMy mom and dad clearly knew what I wanted to do with my life, but they made sure I continued with my homework and were proud of getting the ODA job.
âWee Brian was my boss and I used to sit next to a girl called Louise who was the biggest Celtic fan you’ve ever met in your life and we had a lot of fun.
âThere was a great group of people at the time and I loved the camaraderie. One of the best things was that there was a pub on site.
“Luckily, at ODA at that time we were working flexible hours which was great because I could work my football around that.
âSo I could come in early, do my shift, and if I needed to take the bus to St Johnstone, I could.
âUnfortunately, I was too low on the salary scale to be given a mission overseas. They obviously denounced me right away and wouldn’t let me out of East Kilbride.
His public service career ended when Sunderland signed him for Â£ 355,000 from St Johnstone.
But he said: “You can never say how life would have been if it hadn’t been for football to work, but I wouldn’t have despaired of leaving Overseas Development.
âI am extremely serious because I really enjoyed my job there. I wouldn’t be dying to escape.
“You never know, if I hadn’t joined Sunderland I might have been one of those who served for 40 years.”
Earlier this year it was revealed that more than 500 of the 1,000 civil service jobs relocated to Scotland were Foreign Office positions moved to the department’s existing base in East Kilbride, south Lanarkshire.
The UK government said it was part of a “pledge” to Abercrombie House, which serves as the joint headquarters of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).
The additional roles would bring the Foreign Office staff at East Kilbride to 1,500 by 2025.
FCDO is the result of the merger of the Scotland-based Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign Office (FCO).
Last year, Boris Johnson was asked to urgently reassure the 948 DfID workers who had been based at Abercrombie House since the 1980s and who would produce Â£ 30million for the local economy.
In 2010, DfID’s Overseas Territories Department (OTD) relocated from London to strengthen the workforce in East Kilbride.
The department has played a key role in addressing Ebola, gender inequalities, the crisis in Syria and providing life-saving assistance in emergencies.
Jackie French, born in Rutherglen, was among those who were part of the “Full 40” club, having been at Abercrombie House from the start.
Ms French, currently senior program manager in the girls’ education department, said: âI will always remember my first day. As the 77 bus approached Hairmyres, three smartly dressed young people stood up and we all looked at each other and said “ODA”. One of them was Ally McCoist.
âWe were sent for transplant training and it was arranged in rows, like at school, which made us laugh.
Foreign Minister Liz Truss said: âOur 1,000 employees in Scotland can proudly celebrate 40 years of Abercrombie House having been at the forefront of making the UK a premier diplomatic and development superpower. plan.
âI look forward to building on Abercrombie House’s impressive history as we position the UK at the heart of an unrivaled global network of economic, diplomatic and security partnerships in service to the British people.
‘The commitment to redeploy another 500 jobs to our joint headquarters by 2025, as part of the UK government’s upgrade program, ensures that Scottish voices will play a central role in the use of our aid budget Â£ 10 billion to fight climate change and bounce back from the covid pandemic. ”