Cayman Islands chief fired parting shot at "patronising" Foreign Office, new file shows

Alan J Scott accused the government of being heavy handed in its dealings with the overseas territory, according to an FOI published by the Foreign Office

By Jonathan Owen

01 Sep 2016

The governor of the Cayman Islands clashed with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office over Britain’s treatment of the overseas territory, reveals a document just released by the Whitehall department.

Alan J Scott, writing in his valedictory despatch to the-then foreign secretary Douglas Hurd in 1992, said: “The Cayman Islands government sought vigorously to have my term extended, by several written communications and by a delegation to London to represent the matter to the Secretary of State himself.”

But the attempts were “abruptly rebuffed,” according to Scott, who served five years as governor of the overseas territory.

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“The United Kingdom government stands to answer for its stewardship of the Cayman Islands,” he said.

“From the moment the Cayman Islands began evidently to make their own way...the British government cut them off from the aid system (which to those who served in the Pacific and the Caribbean Sea has always seemed disproportionately slanted towards Africa),” his despatch stated.

“Cayman’s reward for being frugal and later prosperous, is to be denied British financial aid, and indeed, close attention, until lately,” it added.

Scott went on to accuse the government of being heavy handed in its dealings with the Cayman Islands.

“The latest policy approach from the U.K. is the ‘smack of firm and good government’ – the board of management, which will smack those who need it and give them money, but for Cayman seem likely to attempt smacks but not to provide financial help.”

The governor also criticised FCO officials: “Cayman is visited infrequently by FCO staff and ministers…They stay for short periods, they do not appear to listen, and they can seem patronising.”

He added: “The impression is of birds of passage, not wishing to learn much, and anxious to pass on.”

There was a “general malaise” within the FCO, where “diplomatic service officers are not much concerned about dependent territories and do not wish to spend even three years in a career working in them,” Scott said.

“The responsible departments are understaffed and under resourced and hence, not generally attractive to career diplomats,” he claimed.

Although the future of Britain’s colonies had been discussed for decades, there had been “little action” in what Scott described as “a depressing experience.”

In his view, diplomats are trained to advance the interests of the British government, whereas "colonial servants" work in the interests of the nation they administer "on behalf of the Queen and the U.K. government".

Scott was optimistic for the future of the Cayman Islands, which he predicted would "survive" due to "its basic commonsense, fortitude, and good fortune."

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