Minister question

Tories ask for ruling on independence post

Jamie Hepburn

Jamie Hepburn: new minister for independence (pic:Terry Murden)

The Scottish Conservatives have today written to the Permanent Secretary objecting to taxpayers’ money being used by First Minister Humza Yousaf to create a minister for independence.

The Tories say public funds should not be allocated to promoting the SNP’s party political goals, given that the constitution is a reserved matter. 

Mr Yousaf, who has appointed Jamie Hepburn to the post, told MSPs in his augural First Minister’s Questions that he made no apology for appointing a minister for independence, adding that “we need it more than ever before”.

In his letter to John-Paul Marks, shadow constitution secretary Donald Cameron says last autumn’s Supreme Court ruling – that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate for a referendum on independence – means there is no justification for such a post to exist. 

He insists it’s unacceptable for publicly-funded civil service resources – along with a £100,000 ministerial salary – to be allocated to a matter beyond the remit of the Scottish government. 

Mr Cameron says: “There is simply no justification for the creation of a minister for independence post in the Scottish government. 

“It’s a scandalous and flagrant attempt by Humza Yousaf to divert public money to promote the party-political goals of the SNP on a matter outside the Scottish government’s competence. 

“I’ve written to the Permanent Secretary to establish whether or not ‘ministerial direction’ was sought before this post was created – and, if not, why not?”

Mr Cameron’s letter coincides with new research from Savanta, suggesting a dip in support for the SNP, though independence remains steady.

Independence support is on 45%, up one percentage point from a survey by Savanta last month.

No is on 47%, also up one point. With don’t knows excluded, No is at 52% and Yes is on 48%.

However, the survey shows the SNP would lose 18 Holyrood seats (reducing its total to 46) at Holyrood with Labour gaining 20 (rising to (42).

The Green party would gain two MSPs, leaving the pro-independence parties with a minority of 56 seats. Together Labour, the Tories and LibDems would have 73.

The polling puts the SNP on 39% in Westminster (-3), Labour on 33% (+1), and the Tories on 19% (+2).

The research carried out from March 28-31 (after Humza Yousaf was elected as the new SNP leader).

Separate research by Polling People delivers a much brighter outlook for the SNP. It predicts the SNP would take 48% of the vote at Westminster, with Labour at just 20% 

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