Sturgeon and Ross clash over referendum cost
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross have traded verbal blows over government plans to spend £20m on an independence referendum in 2023/24.
Appearing at First Minister’s Questions, Ross asked Sturgeon to explain why her government was planning on spending millions on a referendum, “in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis, and with too many families struggling?”
Sturgeon replied by firstly thanking Ross for giving her the chance to “set out exactly why giving the people of Scotland an opportunity to choose a better future is so important at this particular moment in time”.
Sturgeon then said: “The Scottish Government is having to invest more than £700m mitigating the impact of Westminster policies that Scotland did not vote for: the bedroom tax; the rape clause; the removal of Universal Credit plunging more people into poverty.
“So yes, Presiding Officer, I think that £20m – 0.05% per cent, or one half of one-tenth of one per cent of the entire Scottish Government budget – to give the people of this country the opportunity to choose a better future, is and will be a really good investment.”
Ross hit back, saying the First Minister’s answer “never once mentioned the cost-of-living crisis”, and accused Sturgeon of “obsessing about independence when people across Scotland overwhelmingly want the focus to be on issues that really matter to them”.
Ross added: “Let's look at that £20m – it can pay for more police officers, more teachers, more nurses, it could be more support for people facing rising energy bills and higher costs at the supermarket.
“Charging ahead with a plan to divide us is the wrong priority. Now more than ever, we should be using the strength and security we get as part of the United Kingdom to see us through the cost-of-living crisis, just like it saw us through the Covid pandemic.”
Sturgeon responded: “Can I suggest that Douglas Ross might want to consider that what is causing the cost-of-living crisis is soaring inflation that, in the UK, thanks in large part to the utter folly of Brexit imposed upon Scotland by a Tory government, is the highest of any G7 country - that is part of the price of a Westminster Government.
“It is a Tory created cost-of-living crisis. And how much worse does it have to get before the Conservatives take it seriously and provide real proper help to people across this country?”
Ross added: “This Westminster bogeyman doesn’t cut it with the public who are struggling because of your decisions.”