Funding row

SNP accused of ‘obscene’ spending on constitution

independence march Edinburgh October 2018
Public funds are being spent on independence campaigning (pic: Terry Murden)

A £3.5 million spending spree by the Scottish government on independence related issues has been described as an “obscene waste” of taxpayers’ money.

Civil servants have been diverted to producing nationalist propaganda and mounting legal challenges, according to research by Scotland in Union, a group campaigning to keep the UK together.

The analysis puts the total bill at an estimated £3.44m since September 2021 when former First Minster Nicola Sturgeon outlined her Programme for Government after that year’s election.

Spending included a Scottish Government ‘constitutional futures division’ costing an estimated £2.97m made up mainly of salaries.

There was a legal bill of £251,729 for the failed attempt to hold a second referendum, while more than £150,467 was allocated to the design, print and translation costs of a series of policy papers on a separate Scotland. Nearly £70,000 has been spent on creating a Minister for Independence.

Scotland in Union says the real figure may be even higher, as the Scottish Government does not provide detailed breakdowns.

Pamela Nash, the group’s chief executive, said:  “This is an obscene waste of taxpayers’ money.

“When the housing budget is being slashed, the NHS is in chaos, and families and businesses alike are desperate for economic growth, diverting public resources to the SNP’s divisive campaign is unforgiveable.

“Civil servants and ministers should be focused on what really matters to people. In 2024, the SNP must end the spend on its constitutional obsession and govern for all the people of Scotland.”

Jamie Hepburn, the independence minister, defended the spending on constitutional matters. He said the Scottish government was committed “to giving people in Scotland the right to choose their own future, in line with the 2021 election which returned a majority and democratic mandate in favour of an independence referendum”.

The list of spending commitments included £31,854 which Mr Hepburn receives on top of his MSP pay of £67,662 and £37,936 for the private secretary to the minister for independence.

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