A trip to Edinburgh – the Scottish Government International Development Grant-holder’s Information Day

A Scottish Government International Development Grant-holder’s Information Day was held at the Norton Park Conference Centre in Edinburgh on Thursday 13 December 2018. Alex Mackay from the Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology represented the University of Glasgow Blantyre – Blantyre Project and we travelled across from Glasgow together to join the event on behalf of our respective projects.

With Alex Mackay representing the University of Glasgow 

The invitees were from a broad range of backgrounds with projects in Zambia, Rwanda and Malawi. It was a full house for what turned out to be an excellent event.

The agenda was a packed one but with plenty of opportunity for networking and some very important learning on areas such as safeguarding and project reporting:


After some brief words from Joanna Keating, the Minister for Europe, Migration and International Development, Ben Macpherson MSP, arrived to deliver the Opening Remarks. In a very passionate presentation he spoke of his experiences during his first six months as Minister, particularly the importance of collaboration as a fundamental pillar of the work we are all involved in delivering. He described Scotland’s ambition to be a positive voice on the global stage and of its ‘Beyond Aid’ agenda, taking an holistic approach to sustainable development. The need for behavioural change in the context of issues such as climate change was viewed as critical in the bid to end poverty and fight inequality. The Minister stressed the importance of two major issues on the day’s agenda – safeguarding and gender equality –  and the need for us all to build public confidence in international development activity. He described how privileged he felt to have worked with a variety of international development teams and to see for himself the difference being made on the ground. In closing he looked forward to a positive and purposeful 2019.

The Minister, Ben Macpherson MSP, delivers his Opening Remarks and sets the tone for the day’s events 

Following the Minister’s presentation, Joanna Keating, Head of the International Development Team, took us on a whistle-stop tour of the work of her team over recent months. It was extremely impressive, as reflected in one of the many tweets during the day from Alex!


You may also like to read an account by the Minister of his recent visits to Zambia and Malawi which can be found at: https://blogs.gov.scot/international/2018/10/25/minister-we-should-be-proud-of-how-we-play-our-part-in-tackling-global-challenges

There followed an excellent presentation by Philippa Ramsden of the Scottish Development Alliance on safeguarding, an issue that has been thrust into prominence by a number of revelations within the charity and international aid sector over the past year. Philippa described the on-line “Safer for All” safeguarding support package launched by the Alliance on 5 December 2018 (https://www.intdevalliance.scot).

Philippa Ramsden spoke about the safeguarding work undertaken by the Scottish Development Alliance and introduced the new ‘Safer for All’ support package

This package “...is designed to provide organisations with the information, tools, resources, and support needed to ensure that safeguarding practice meets the highest standards”


Eileen Flanagan of the Scottish Government Equality Unit followed the safeguarding presentation with a talk on the role of gender equality as part of culture change. She spoke about the Equally Safe strategy, which is Scotland’s strategy for preventing and eradicating violence against women and had been updated in 2018. Details are available at https://www.gov.scot/publications/equally-safe/.

Eileen Flanagan speaking on gender equality

After a brief coffee break, Bernie O’Hare gave a presentation on the NHS Scotland Global Citizenship Programme.

Bernie O’Hare at the lectern, speaking on global citizenship

This recent innovation was discussed at the Global Citizenship Conference at the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Glasgow (RCPSG) earlier this year and has been mentioned in a previous blog post.


The Scottish Global Health Coordination Unit (https://www.scottishglobalhealth.org) has been established to support NHS Scotland Global Health workers to provide capacity and expertise to the co-ordination of health partnership work in NHS Scotland.

We have submitted details of the MalDent Project which you can view at: https://www.scottishglobalhealth.org/.projects/towards-a-dental-school-for-malawi-the-maldent-project Thanks to Kerry Chalmers, Senior Policy Manager at NHS Scotland Global Citizenship, for facilitating this.

Next up was a fascinating presentation from Martin Rhodes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Fair Trade Forum.

Martin Rhodes updating delegates on the Scottish Fair Trade Forum

The Scottish Government is committed to the fair trade agenda. Martin pointed out that doing trade fairly is part of the ‘Beyond Aid’ agenda. You can read more about the Scottish Fair Trade Forum at: http://www.scottishfairtradeforum.org.uk

After a short but very interesting interactive session which gave us all an insight into the daily work (and challenges!) for the Scottish Government International Development team in dealing with public enquiries and ministerial questions, we broke for lunch. This was a great opportunity for discussion and networking and was a chance for me to have a catch up with Lisa McManus who was representing the RCPSG for the Livingstone Fellowships, but of course the RCPSG is also a key stakeholder in the MalDent Project.

Immediately after lunch we broke into groups by country of activity. The session in the ‘Malawi Room’ started with a presentation from David Hope-Jones OBE, Chief Executive of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership (SMP). The earlier post which covered the SMP AGM has provided much information about the excellent work of this organisation, which is funded by the Scottish Government (https://www.scotland-malawipartnership.org).

David Hope-Jones OBE describing the activities of the Scotland-Malawi Partnership

David mentioned the forthcoming launch of the full official Conference Report from the Malawi and Scotland: Together for Sustainable Development conference in Lilongwe on 28 and 29 September 2018. That report has now been published and can be viewed at the following web address:


Following this presentation, a number of grant-holders gave 3 minute presentations about their individual projects – a fascinating range and depth of activity.

After the ‘country huddles’ we all came back together for an outstanding presentation by Professor Bob Kalin of Strathclyde University who has a distinguished track record of working on water resource management in Malawi:

He pointed out just how critical water supply is to economic growth and overall well-being of a country:


In his very pragmatic talk he introduced the concept of stranded assets:


This is a concept that is of immediate relevance to the MalDent Project, because of the complexity of the equipment required to deliver dentistry and the challenges around maintenance and repair. Actions that are designed to mitigate these risks are built into the project plan but will require careful and vigilant monitoring.

Finally we were treated to an excellent and very practical presentation from Carrie Sweeney on mid-year and annual reporting.  The key dates of 30 April (end of year) and 30 October (mid-year) were stressed as hard deadlines. Furthermore, underspend forecast reports were required by 31 January each year.

Carrie Sweeney delivering her master-class on grant reporting

One of the key messages was “Don’t mess with Carrie’s spreadsheets” – the format is fixed for a reason – there are hidden formulae!

A brief summary of the day and a short quiz brought the event to a close. I, for one, had learnt a great deal and was very grateful for the opportunity to meet with all the other grant-holders.

Judging by their smiles, Nicola Cogan and Ian Nicol, our grant managers for both  the Blantyre Blantyre Project and the MalDent Project, looked happy with how the day turned out.

Nicola and Ian with the Malawian flag as backdrop

Let’s hope we can maintain those smiles during our mid-year and end-of-year review meetings!

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