UK Government contradicts claims about probe into Holyrood spending
The UK Government has contradicted claims made by Labour peer Lord Foulkes that the Advocate General for Scotland has agreed to investigate the Scottish Government’s spending on independence.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Thursday, Lord Foulkes, who previously served as MP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley and MSP for the Lothian region, said that advocate general Lord Stewart had “agreed, at my request, to instruct his officials to investigate ultra-vires expenditure by the Scottish Government”.
Opposition parties immediately responded to the announcement, saying the SNP government at Holyrood should not be spending public money on the pursuit of independence, drawing attention to the party’s series of Building a New Scotland papers and the creation of a minster for independence post.
Scottish Conservative shadow constitution secretary Donald Cameron said “there can be no proper justification for the Scottish Government using public money to pursue independence” and that “any resources deployed in that way simply amounts to a misuse of taxpayers’ cash”.
Liberal Democrat Scottish affairs spokesperson Christine Jardine accused the Scottish Government of “wasting money on making civil servants draft up papers that are only fit for the shredder and employing a minister for independence whose main job seems to be placating their own angry activists”.
However, a UK Government spokesperson told the Press Association that it is not in a position to investigate Scottish Government spending.
“It is up to the Scottish Government how it spends its record block grant in devolved areas,” the spokesperson said.
“We have been consistently clear that we think that the priority for people in Scotland is halving inflation, tackling the NHS waiting times, ensuring energy security, and growing our economy across the whole of the UK.”
In response, Lord Foulkes wrote on Twitter that “Hansard doesn’t lie” and retweeted a post with a link to his exchange with Baroness Penn in which the Conservative peer said she could “give the noble lord that assurance” that her officials in the Treasury would work with Lord Stewart’s officials to investigate the spending.
He later released an email exchange he'd had with Lord Stewart in which the advocate general says he is looking into the allocation of money to the independence minister role.
“Thanks for your question at the constitution committee," Lord Stewart wrote.
"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.”