Scottish Government independence spending 'being probed', emails show

The UK Government denies an investigation is taking place.

Scottish Government independence spending ‘being probed’ by UK, emails show iStock

A UK Government minister has “tasked” officials to look into the Scottish Government’s spending on independence, emails sent to a Labour peer suggest.

Lord Foulkes said on Thursday he had been told that an investigation had been launched by the UK Government.

But that was later rebuked by the Scotland Office, which denied any probe was under way.

However an email exchange sent to STV News between the peer and Lord Stewart, the UK Government adviser on Scots Law, suggests a probe has been ordered.

In the email sent on Thursday, Advocate General Lord Stewart said: “Thanks for your question at the Constitution Committee.

“After the committee rose, I discussed the matter with officials from my department and tasked them with examining the matter of expenditure on this post (of independence minister) by SG, and the allocation of civil service time and personnel.

“I shall revert to you in early course once they have reported.”

The UK Government still denies any investigation is taking place, saying “it is up to the Scottish Government how it spends its record block grant in devolved areas”.

Foulkes said he had been given a “clear assurance” that an investigation was being carried out.

“I am concerned that there is an attempt under way to reverse the assurances given to me by the Advocate General and Baroness Penn,” Foulkes said, following the release of the emails.

“You will see from the attached email that I received a clear assurance that the UK officials were tasked with looking into ultra vires expenditure by the Scottish Government on an ‘independence minister’ and supporting civil servants.

“I have had overwhelming support for this and look forward to a positive response from Lord Stewart on stopping this illegal spending by the Scottish Government.”

This comes after First Minister Humza Yousaf created a minister for independence role for Jamie Hepburn, and civil servants delivered the latest independence prospectus, despite the Supreme Court confirming last year that the constitution was a reserved matter.

In a Holyrood committee earlier this year, the head of the civil service in Scotland, John Paul Marks, defended the appointment, saying the service “serves the Scottish Government and their priorities”.

The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.

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