The number of civil servants working on the Scottish Government’s indyref2 road map has nearly doubled at a cost of almost £1.2m a year, it has emerged.
A Freedom of Information request by Scotland in Union found staffing resources had increased from 11 at the start of the year to 20.
It comes as the First Minister prepares to outline the Scottish Government’s plans to hold a second independence referendum on Tuesday.
Nicola Sturgeon previously said that the decision to allocate £20m for an independence referendum in the Scottish Government’s spending plans was a “really good investment”.
Alastair Cameron, Scotland in Union director, said: “This revelation demonstrates a totally unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money by the SNP.
“These are senior, highly-paid and expert civil servants who could be devoting their time to pressing matters such as reducing NHS waiting times or closing the attainment gap in our schools.
“Instead, they have been tasked by SNP ministers with working on a blueprint to divide the people of Scotland.
“The majority of people in Scotland don’t want to leave the UK, and voters are strongly opposed to another referendum next year.
“The First Minister should stop pandering to hardline nationalists and squandering public money on a hypothetical, unwanted referendum.
“Scotland has a brighter future as part of the UK, bringing together people and communities, keeping the pound, enabling businesses to grow, investing more in public services, sharing our defence capabilities, and creating more jobs.”
Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the SNP were “frittering away money” on the proposed referendum amid the cost of living crisis.
He said: “This money and these civil servants could be used to tackle the cost-of-living emergency, cut Covid rates or reduce waiting times. At the hands of the SNP, they are being used for the very opposite.
“The SNP are frittering away money on a reckless fantasy to divide the UK.”
A spokesperson for constitution secretary Angus Robertson said: “With a Brexit that Scotland overwhelmingly rejected already estimated to have lost the UK economy £31bn, the need for independence, free from Westminster control, has never been so essential.
“Last May people in Scotland elected a Scottish Parliament with the biggest ever majority in favour of independence and an independence referendum.
“The Scottish Government is determined people should be able to make an informed choice about their future.
“The first paper we published set out how neighbouring independent countries comparable to Scotland are wealthier and fairer than the UK which perhaps explains why anti-independence organisations are so desperate to suppress this work and deny people in Scotland their democratic right to vote for a better future.”