Taxpayers forced to foot £75,000 bill for Scottish independence papers

Taxpayers foot £75,000 bill for Scottish independence white papers as SNP ‘pursue warped priorities’

  • Government spent £77,282 on five papers in just over a year from June 2022
  • No strategies were published on housing or rural affairs during the same period
  • Conservative MSP has slammed spending as a ‘blatant misuse’ of public funds

Taxpayers have been landed with a bill of more than £75,000 for a series of independence white papers as SNP ministers pursue their ‘warped priorities’, figures have revealed.

The Scottish Government spent £77,282 on five papers in the Building A New Scotland series in just over a year from June 2022.

The papers were written by 24 civil servants working on independence policy.

Over the same period, no strategies were published on policy areas the SNP already controls, including housing and rural affairs.

News of the spending comes at a time when ministers are trying to fill a £1billion black hole in the Budget for next year, which is due to be published in December.

The Scottish Government spent £77,282 on five papers in the Building A New Scotland series in just over a year from June 2022 (pictured, former first minister Nicola Sturgeon)

Labour’s Shadow Scottish Secretary Ian Murray said: ‘Our NHS is in crisis, Scots are struggling with the worst cost of living crisis in decades and public finances are at breaking point – but the SNP is frittering away taxpayer money on their own warped priorities.

‘They are busy talking to themselves and trying to stoke division at a time when our country needs leadership. The SNP is out of touch with Scotland’s priorities and cannot be trusted with the public purse.’

The Scottish Government has confirmed that just under £32,000 was spent on the two most recent Building A New Scotland papers launched by Humza Yousaf.

This takes the cost of the full series of five papers published so far to £77,282.

The cost only covers the design, production, formatting and printing of the papers and does not take into consideration the substantial costs of the time civil servants spent writing them. It was revealed in August that 24 civil servants are working within the Scottish Government’s constitutional futures division, which is co-ordinating work on the prospectus for independence.

Nicola Sturgeon had previously claimed she would hold an independence referendum on October 19, 2023. However, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Government could not do so without the consent of the UK Government, as issues around the constitution are reserved.

Ms Sturgeon instead proposed that the next general election should be turned into a ‘de facto referendum’ where she would attempt to begin independence negotiations if the SNP won more than half of the Scottish votes.

But this strategy was scrapped by Mr Yousaf, who instead agreed last week at the SNP conference that winning a majority of seats in the next general election should be a mandate to demand an independence referendum – or for the power to hold such a vote to be devolved.

Taxpayers have been landed with a bill of more than £75,000 for a series of independence white papers (pictured, first minister Humza Yousef at a SNP conference last week)

Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Donald Cameron said: ‘It is outrageous that taxpayers are picking up this tab for the Nationalists’ pet project.’

He said the ‘partisan papers’ were a ‘blatant misuse of public money and resources’.

New figures published by the Scottish Government in response to a written parliamentary question show that £13,616 was spent on the production and publication of one paper, Citizenship in an Independent Scotland, which proposed a burgundy red Scottish passport after independence.

Costs of the paper included £5,838 on translations of a summary in Arabic, Bengali, Bulgarian, Cantonese, French, Gaelic, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Polish, Punjabi, Romanian, Russian, Spanish, Ukrainian and Urdu.

Independence Minister Jamie Hepburn refused to give a total production cost for the papers because ‘details of individual tasks carried out by civil servants, including the number of hours spent on them, are not routinely recorded because there is no business need to do this’.

The Scottish Government said: ‘There is a democratic mandate for this work, with the 2021 Scottish parliament election returning a clear majority in favour of an independence referendum.’

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