SCOTS football legend Ally McCoist has paid tribute to 26 civil servants who have served the full 40 years at a government building he worked in when it opened.

The Rangers and Scotland striker turned TV and radio personality was one of 350 staff recruited 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 almost 1,000 employees as the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office’s joint HQ.

Although Mr McCoist, now 59, only worked there for five months as a clerical assistant before his football career took off, he has paid tribute to the former colleagues he worked with when the building first opened.

HeraldScotland:

Former international development secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan beside a commemorative plague when she visited 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 first opened are still there today. If you ask me, they all deserve a George Cross in recognition of that service.

“It was a massive boost for East Kilbride that building opening. I still remember my first day, getting off the No77 bus from Calderwood, and walking into this amazing new place as a civil servant.

“My mum and dad clearly knew what I wanted to do with my life, but they’d made sure I’d kept up with my schoolwork and were proud as punch I’d got the ODA job.

“Wee Brian was my boss and I used to sit next to a girl called Louise, who was the biggest Celtic fan you ever met in your life and we used to have great fun.

“There was a cracking group of people there at the time and I loved the camaraderie. One of the best things was that there was a pub on site.

“The lucky thing was that at ODA, at that time, we worked flexi hours, which was brilliant, as I could work my football around it.

“So, I could go in early, do my shift, and if I needed to get the bus up to St Johnstone then I was able to do that.

“Sadly, I was too far down the pay scale to be given any foreign assignments. They obviously sussed me out straight away and wouldn’t let me out of East Kilbride.”

His civil service career ended when Sunderland signed him for £355,000 from St Johnstone.

But he said: “You can never say how life might have panned out if football hadn’t worked out, but I wouldn’t have been desperate to leave Overseas Development.

“I’m deadly serious because I really enjoyed my work there. There was no way I was dying to escape.

HeraldScotland:

“You never know, if I hadn’t joined Sunderland, I might have been one of those who have served the full 40 years.”

Earlier this year, it was revealed than more that 500 of 1,000 civil service jobs relocated to Scotland were Foreign Office posts moving to the department's existing base in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.

The UK Government said it was part of a "commitment" to Abercrombie House, which acts as the joint headquarters for the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO).

The additional roles would bring the Foreign Office's staff in East Kilbride to 1,500 by 2025.

The FCDO is the result of the merger of the Scottish-based Department for International Development (DfID) and the Foreign Office (FCO).

Last year, Boris Johnson had been asked for urgent reassurance for the 948 staff at the DfID who had been based at Abercrombie House since the 1980s and was believed to produce £30m for the local economy.

In 2010, the DfID's Overseas Territories Department (OTD) was relocated from London to boost the workforce in East Kilbride.

The department played a key role in tackling Ebola, gender inequality, the crisis in Syria and the provision of lifesaving aid in emergencies.

Rutherglen-born Jackie French was one of those who are part of the 'Full 40' club, having been at Abercrombie House from the start.

Ms French, currently senior programme Mmanager in the girls’ education department said: “I 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.

“We were sent for training in the Registry Department and it was set out in rows, just like in school, which made us laugh."

Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “Our 1,000 staff in Scotland can proudly celebrate 40 years of Abercrombie House having been at the forefront of making the UK a world-leading diplomatic and development superpower.

“I’m looking forward to building on Abercrombie House’s impressive history, as we position the UK at the heart of an unrivalled global network of economic, diplomatic and security partnerships to deliver for the British people.

“The commitment to redeploy a further 500 jobs to our joint HQ by 2025, as part of the UK Government’s levelling up agenda, ensures Scottish voices will play a pivotal role in using our £10billion aid budget to combat climate change and bounce back from the Covid pandemic.”