Case continues

Hepburn’s next indy paper dubbed ‘pointless’

Jamie Hepburn

Jamie Hepburn: my responsibility is to push the case

The SNP’s minister for independence is facing a further backlash as he prepares to publish the next in a series of policy papers setting out the case for Scotland to leave the UK.

Jamie Hepburn, who was appointed to the newly created job after Humza Yousaf replaced Nicola Sturgeon as first minister, has not revealed what subject matter will be.

“But what I can say in terms of broad timescale is we’re probably talking in the coming weeks that we’ll publish the next one,” he told The National newspaper.

Three previous ‘Building a New Scotland’ papers were published by Nicola Sturgeon last year, although that was before the UK Supreme Court forced the party to scrap plans for another independence referendum this October.

The papers focused on the economy, democracy and comparisons with similar small, independent European nations.

The Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MSP added that it was his “responsibility” in government to continue pushing the case for independence but he was criticised for wasting money.

Willie Rennie, the Liberal Democrat MSP, said: “Never before will so many trees have been sacrificed in the pursuit of such a pointless exercise.

“With the party under police investigation and the government still incapable of even building a ferry you would think they’d have other things on their mind.

“No matter how many taxpayer-funded reports they produce they still won’t have the faintest clue what they would do on pensions, currency or borders.”

Scottish Conservative shadow constitution secretary Donald Cameron MSP said: “The public will be dismayed but not surprised to learn that the SNP are set to ramp up their relentless push for independence.

“Scottish people want and expect the SNP government to focus on their real priorities – like the cost-of-living crisis and unacceptable NHS waiting lists – rather than wasting time and taxpayer resources on another biased paper touting the break-up of the UK.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of pro-UK campaign group Scotland in Union, said it was “astonishing that the SNP government thinks this is a priority”.

Critics or the papers have come from within the SNP. Last week, Joanna Cherry, the SNP MP, branded the prospectuses “really lightweight”.

She told the Holyrood Sources podcast: “I know there are a lot of successful, small independent countries in Europe, but what I think voters, what people in Scotland, want to know is how are we going to get from where we are now — enmeshed in the United Kingdom — to being one of those successful countries?

“That’s where the difficult questions lie in relation to questions to do with currency, to do with pension payments, to do with cross-border trade, to how long will it take us to get back into the EU? Do we sit in an association agreement while we do so?”

Mr Hepburn was recently forced to defend his ministerial salary, stating “I’m not going anywhere,” when it became apparent he had yet to make any contribution at Holyrood since he was handed the plum role at the end of March.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has questioned whether civil servants should be employed to support such a role in government.

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