SNP accuses UK Govt of wasting millions of taxpayer pounds on ‘zombie’ Scotland Office – HeraldScotland

THE UK Government has been accused of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers money with its spending on the Scotland Office, branded a zombie department by the SNP.

Mhairi Black, the partys spokeswoman on the office of the Scottish Secretary, said its 8.5 million bill for 2019/20 - up more than 1.2m on the previous year - was completely unjustifiable given the Scotland Office had become little more than a Tory propaganda unit.

But last night the UK Government hit back, dismissing the Nationalists attack as petty and baseless and saying it was disappointing given how important disseminating public information was during the coronavirus pandemic. It pointed out how the Scotland Office spent a fraction of what the SNP administration did on the costs of advertising and communications.

New figures have emerged about Scotland Office expenditure from a Freedom of Information request, lodged by the SNP, which showed:

*spending rose from 7.3m in 2018/19 to 8.5m last year in 2013/14, it was 4.9m;

*the communications bill increased in the 12 months to 2019 by 3,700 to 1,354,776 in 2013/14, it was 509,343;

*the total expenditure on advertising for 2019/20 was 36,704, down from 58,406 in 2013/14, it was nil and

*the number of communications staff rose by two to 17 in the year to 2019/20 in 2013/14 there were eight.

Ms Black said: After a decade of Tory austerity cuts, it beggars belief that the Tory Government is wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers money on this zombie department, which has completely failed to stand up for Scotland in the face of an extreme Brexit and Tory power-grab.

The Scotland Office is now little more than a Tory propaganda unit and the huge increases in spending on spin doctors and advertising are completely indefensible; particularly when Scottish taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill, she added.

However, in setting out the Scotland Office numbers, the UK Government sought to draw a comparison with the Scottish administrations respective spending.

It noted: To place these figures in context, the core Scottish Governments reported communications expenditure in 2017/18 included 2,645,087 for press officer staffing costs alone, and a further 5,731,087 in marketing and advertising costs[a total of nearly 8.4m]. By comparison, the[Scotland] Office spent 431,601 in 2017/18 on these two elements combined.

On social media promotion, Whitehall said the core Scottish Governments reported spend on social media promotion in 2017/18 was 277,369; this compared to 22,829 for the Scotland Office.

It also said in 2018/19 the Scottish Government was reported to have had 126.9 full time equivalent staff in its communications division; for the same year the Scotland Office had 15.

Responding to the SNPs criticism, a UK Government spokeswoman said: This is a petty and baseless attack and hugely disappointing at a time when public information has never been more important.

The Secretary of States communications team has been working flat out, and working closely with Scottish Government colleagues, to ensure that people and businesses across Scotland have the information they need to stay safe and deal with Covid-19.

She stressed how the Scotland Office represented Scottish interests at the heart of Whitehall and promoted the work of the UK Government in Scotland, which included explaining UK Government policies to people across the country.

In order to do this, the Office delivers all of the communications functions and activities expected and required of a central UK Government department.

The use of digital communications is a cost-effective way for the UK Government to communicate important messages to the public such as national awareness campaigns and policy initiatives as well as working to help Scottish businesses get ready for EU Exit, she added.

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SNP accuses UK Govt of wasting millions of taxpayer pounds on 'zombie' Scotland Office - HeraldScotland

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