Number of government press officers rises by 42% in four years

The figures were published following a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Number of government press officers rises by 42% in four years PA Media

The number of Scottish Government press officers has almost doubled in the past four years, documents show.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request published on the Scottish Government website shows 54.9 full time equivalent (FTE) positions were occupied in 2020-21.

The figure is up from 38.6 in 2016-17.

The Scottish Government has not yet published the total budget for its media operation for the last financial year, but stats from the past decade show an increasing budget that expands alongside the number of media staff.

In 2006-07, the last year of the Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition in Scotland, the cost of communications staff was £1.83m.

The figures rose almost every year under the SNP administration – including a spike of more than £400,000 between 2012-13 and 2013-14 – before reaching just over £2.8m in 2020-21.

In recent years, the Scottish Government said, more responsibility has been shifted to Scotland, including the creation of benefits body Social Security Scotland, and dealing with the UK’s exit from the EU.

In the past year, communications efforts have also been ramped up as a result of the pandemic, with an emphasis on sharing key public health messages with Scots, as well as holding almost daily briefings from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman told the Times: “Effective communication is an essential role of government.

“Communications activity is needed to explain policy decisions and provide information to the public about the government and its services.

“We are operating a wider range of responsibilities than ever before, dealing with key priorities such as the response to the pandemic, EU exit work and change projects including the development of  Social Security Scotland, while continuing to protect public services and deliver value for money.

“It is important that we communicate with the people of Scotland about this work.”

Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “It seems that spinning for ministers and digging them out of holes is the one SNP job creation plan that is actually working.

“What the people of Scotland need is ministers that are focused on delivering for them, not an army of spin doctors.

“It’s time that the SNP spends more time focusing on substance, not spin.”

Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr said: “The SNP’s spend on spin has skyrocketed in recent years.

“If the increased costs had resulted in the public receiving more information from the SNP government, maybe it could be justified.

“But the opposite has happened.

“Every expansion of their communications department seems to increase the lack of transparency coming from this government.”

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