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by Staff reporter
30 March 2023
Yousaf accused of 'insulting' Scots with creation of independence minister role

Yousaf accused of 'insulting' Scots with creation of independence minister role

First Minister Humza Yousaf has come under fire for using a taxpayer-funded ministerial position to further the cause of independence.

When he unveiled his government yesterday, Yousaf confirmed that he had appointed Jamie Hepburn to the newly created role, which he had vowed to put in place during the SNP leadership campaign.

It is unclear at this stage how much of a campaigning element the role will involve, but as it is a ministerial position Hepburn, who was previously minister for higher and further education, is entitled to an enhanced salary at the public’s expense.

During First Minister Question’s today, Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross accused Yousaf of appointing “a taxpayer-funded nationalist campaigner” and said that, in addition to Yousaf’s vow to press ahead with demands for a new section 30 order, the move made him “even more divisive” than his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon.

“On Tuesday, Humza Yousaf promised to be first minister for all of Scotland, but look at his first week in office,” Ross said.

“On Monday, within minutes of winning the leadership of his party, he said he would push right away for powers to hold another referendum.

“On Tuesday, in a call with the prime minister, he demanded another independence vote, and yesterday he appointed a minister for independence – a taxpayer-funded nationalist campaigner.

 “Instead of looking for cooperation between Scotland’s two governments he’s looking for a fight.”

Like all junior ministers, Hepburn is entitled to an MSP salary of £66,662 as well as a ministerial top-up of £31,383, taking his total possible annual payment to £98,045. As ministers have not taken any pay rises since 2009, however, the actual salary he will receive is £81,449.

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said the creation of the position is an insult to Scottish taxpayers, particularly as constitution secretary Angus Robertson has held onto that position in the new-look administration.

As a senior minister Robertson, who also has responsibility for culture and external affairs, is entitled to a salary of £116,759 but receives £96,999 under the freeze.

“The appointment of a taxpayer-funded minister for separation is an insult to the people of Scotland and demonstrates the warped priorities of the new first minister,” Nash said.

“If the SNP leader wants to waste money like this, the additional cost should be paid by his party – not the Scottish public.”

During FMQs Yousaf told Ross that me makes “no apology whatsoever” for creating the independence minister role, saying “we need independence now more than ever before”.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are opposing the appointment of all Yousaf's ministers in protest at the creation of the role.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the party's leader, said a dedicated health minister "to tackle the sea of unmet need" is needed more than a minister for independence, adding that he and his fellow LibDems would vote against Yousaf's plans when they are brought before parliament on Thursday afternoon. 

He said the move would "send a message that public services like our health service deserve better”. 

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