Using Covid cash to fund polling on attitudes to the union was “completely proper and justifiable”, according to Jacob Rees-Mogg.
The Commons leader defended the UK Government’s spending and said the polling helped inform a communications strategy linked to messages about staying at home and wearing face masks during the pandemic.
The Herald newspaper had reported a request to poll attitudes to the union was submitted as part of a Covid-19 contract given to Public First.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford used Prime Minister’s Questions to press for a “full public inquiry” over the spending.
Anum Qaisar-Javed, the SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts, told the Commons on Thursday: “Yesterday in the news we found out that this Government used taxpayers’ money – that should have been used on Covid recovery – on polling for independence.”
She went on to raise concerns about “secret” polling before inviting Rees-Mogg and other Tory MPs to visit her constituency as they are “fantastic advocates for Scottish independence”.
Rees-Mogg accepted the invitation before replying: “The work undertaken on attitudes to the union was a reasonable thing to poll for.
“It’s really important when you’re developing a communications strategy to work out how it will land most effectively, and there was a great deal of work to be done to communicate the messages about staying at home, about working from home, about wearing face masks and so on and so forth, and I think this was completely proper and justifiable.
“I imagine other governments in similar circumstances would have done much the same.”
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