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by Ruaraidh Gilmour
08 August 2023
Civil servants in Scotland made 58,000 bank card transactions

Spending included nearly £10,000 on VIP airport services for former first minister Nicola Sturgeon | Alamy

Civil servants in Scotland made 58,000 bank card transactions

Figures show that civil servants in Scotland used government-issued bank cards to make 58,000 purchases, including spending nearly £10,000 on VIP airport services for former first minister Nicola Sturgeon.   

From September 2019 and August 2022, £14.2m was spent across the tens of thousands of transactions made by senior civil servants.   

The Scottish Government has defended the spending, describing the authorisation process as “robust”. Senior Scottish Government staff are issued with purchasing cards for buying goods and services up to £5,000 per purchase.   

Unusual purchases include yoga classes, nail polish, and Edinburgh Festival tickets. Books and other publications were also bought, including six copies of Women Hold Up Half the Sky, a book of speeches by Sturgeon, a book on Marxism, 21 copies of How to Run a Government so that Citizens Benefit and Taxpayers Don’t Go Crazy, and a printed copy of the Scottish Government’s 2014 independence white paper.   

A summary of purchases over £500 is published on the Scottish Government website, but Scottish Labour obtained a full breakdown of spending spanning September 2019 to August 2022.   

In the summary it shows that £9,898 on airport services for Sturgeon in UK and European airports.   

Further purchases include £4,182 for hospitality and accommodation in September 2019 at the Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire. This was made one day before the opening day of the Solheim Cup at the golf resort. £856 was expensed during the event for “hospitality with UK sports minister”.  

A large amount of equipment for homeworking, including computer monitors were purchased during the lockdown.   

3,000 items had no description, while £25,000 of fraudulent transactions occurred on government-issued cards, which were flagged up by civil servants for refunds.   

Accidental purchases, which were refunded, included a vacuum cleaner and Amazon Prime memberships.  

Scottish Labour Finance spokesperson Michael Marra said: "These are the spending habits of an arrogant and entitled government with no regard for taxpayers.  

"The SNP government is frittering away public money on frivolous purchases and VIP treatment while services are stretched to breaking point.  

"The SNP must end the financial mismanagement that has plagued their government and start delivering for Scotland."  

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Spending through electronic purchasing cards is used to support government officials during their usual course of work such as on training, catering, room hire and one-off supplies.  

“The cards are not for personal expenditure and there are robust authorisation and regular auditing arrangements in place to monitor their use.  

“For security reasons, we cannot comment on the first minister’s travel arrangements.” 

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