Fraser of Allander Institute

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Group.png Fraser of Allander Institute Powerbase Sourcewatch WebsiteRdf-icon.png
Fraser of Allander Institute.jpg
Formation 1974
Type • research
• think tank
• lobby
Interests Scotland/Economy

The Fraser of Allander Institute is a research unit of the University of Strathclyde.

Official narrative

According to its website, the Institute carries out research on the Scottish economy, including the analysis of short term movements in economic activity.' The Institute is named after Lord Fraser of Allander, the former Scottish President of the Economic League.

It is closely involved with corporate lobby groups, producing regular surveys for the Scottish Chambers of Commerce. Its Policy Director Brian Ashcroft is married to Wendy Alexander the MSP and former minister in the Scottish Executive, and previously a special advisor to Donald Dewar. They worked together to produce a book: New Wealth for Old Nations: Scotland's Economic Prospects (Edited by Diane Coyle, Wendy Alexander, and Brian Ashcroft), published by Princeton University Press which sets out a neoliberal vision for Scotland's future. Diane Coyle is the ex Economics editor of the Independent. Today she is the head of the consultancy Enlightenment Economics, which says on its website that it ' specialises in global and technological issues. Both Alexander and Coyle are members of the British American Project

Neoliberal evangelists

In the slightly coded language familiar to students of neoliberalism the book blurb highlights a 'fundamental conclusion' that the blockages to neoliberal reforms are political: 'the difficulty in introducing growth-oriented policies lies more in the politics of implementing change than in the theoretical diagnosis. Public sector governance is consequently a key issue in creating a pro-growth consensus. And faster growth must be seen to improve opportunities for the population as a whole. Further, setting out the evidence--as this book does for Scotland--is vital to overcoming entrenched institutional barriers to policy reform.'[1] Note the imperative: 'must be seen', which implies that perception management is necessary to overcome policy barriers.

The introductory chapter, makes this even clearer. The conclusion 'emphasizes the role of greater openness, incentives and capabilities in stimulating future growth. But it also stresses the importance of winning the battle for people's hearts and minds in support of good policy, because if the politics do not make sense, the policy will rarely change.' [2] In other words: we know what good policy is, the art of politics is to manage public perceptions so that the voters agree with us.

History

The Academic Planning Committee of University of Strathclyde agreed, on July 2nd 1974, to the setting up of a research Institute 'which would collect and store Scottish economic statistics and conduct a programme of quantitative economic research based thereon'[3]. This became the Fraser of Allander Institute. The University at the time were enthusiastic about the development of this economic research institute, in fact according to the Bursar of the University at the time

'The special position which the institute will occupy in the University and in relation to the Dept of Economics, does I think suggest that the aim should be to plough back income into the Insitute to a more pronounced extent than is normally the case with departments of study'[4].

According to Professor Alan Tait, the Head of The Department of Economics at Strathclyde at the time,

'Amongst the functions of the Institute it was decided that an early priority should be the construction of input-output tables for the Scottish Economy. This will provide a framework for the collection and analysis of quantitative economic information about the Scottish economy whose absence makes such a notable gap in our economic knowledge. This should mean that statements about the Scottish Economy in future will be made on the basis of quantitative fact and not, as is so often at present, on hopeful generalisations' [5].

The track record of the Fraser of Allander Institute since has shown that their economic analysis has been used to promote a particular economic ideology, namely market and neo-liberal economics that many argue is not in the interests of the vast majority of the Scottish people. Therefore its actions have quite possibly contradicted the sentiments of Sir Hugh Fraser the son of Hugh Fraser, also known as Lord Fraser of Allander. He said when the Institute opened, that it would correspond with the interests of the Fraser Foundation which was set up in order to provide 'the means, direct and indirect, of encouraging and assisting those whose work is connected with the benefit of the community' [6]. What community he referred to is of course open to question.


Helping the University to support the new institute were three financial safeguards. Firstly, that the university would incur no staff costs for the first three years, secondly, any income earned by the institute through its research programmes would be ploughed back to meet costs and thirdly the sponsors were prepared to consider providing additional support beyond the third year if necessary [7].

The main sponsor at this time was the Hugh Fraser Foundation, they donated £115,000 between 1975-77. Additional sponsors between 1975-77 were BP £5,000, Shell £14,000, Scotsman Publications £14,000 [8]. Mobil North Sea Limited gave £23,000 between 1976-80 [9].


Despite the intention being to sell their services and be self-financing in that way they still relied on external financial support in 1985. As they said themselves :'We receive assistance from the University of Strathclyde, BP, Shell UK, Hugh Fraser Foundation and the Industry Department for Scotland [10].


The Institute was set up partly at the instigation of David Simpson who took up a chair in Economics at Strathclyde on becoming the Institute's first Director. He had previously been a Reader in Economics at Stirling University. He is now a member of the Water Industry Commission in Scotland. Coincidentally, the economists David Bell and Donald Mackay who have both recently written a report recommending the privatisation of Scottish Water were also early contributors to research undertaken by the Fraser of Allander Institute.

Staff



References

  1. ^  University of Strathclyde, Academic Planning Committee, Minutes, 2 July 1974
  2. ^  Letter from L. McGougan (University Bursar) to, the then, Dr David Simpson. It was copied to the Principal and Registrar amongst others, 27th June 1974
  3. ^  University of Strathclyde Gazzette, Autumn 1974
  4. ^  ibid
  5. ^  University of Strathclyde, Academic Planning Committee, Minutes, 2 July 1974
  6. ^  University of Strathclyde Annual Report 1974/75, p 113-114
  7. ^  University of Strathclyde Annual Report 1975/76, p126
  8. ^  Fraser of Allander Institute Report on Research and other activities for the year 1985