Tories complain about Scottish Government funding announcements during purdah
Conservative MSP Ross Thomson said the announcement of redevelopment funding for Glasgow in election week “stinks to high heaven”
Scottish Government building, Victoria Quay
The Scottish Conservatives have made an official complaint about the Scottish Government announcing funding for a regeneration project in Glasgow in the run up the local elections, saying the statement breached purdah.
Conservative MSP Ross Thomson said the announcement “stinks to high heaven”, but the SNP dismissed the complaint as “really desperate stuff from the Tories”.
Official guidance states that civil servants in the Scottish Government should take “particular care” over “official support, and the use of public resources, including publicity, for ministerial or official announcements which could have a bearing on matters relevant to the local elections”.
The Scottish Government announced £8.35m of Scottish Partnership for Regeneration in Urban Centres (SPRUCE) funding for redevelopment in Glasgow on Tuesday.
The SNP went on to become the largest party in the city in the local government election.
This follows other announcements of £1m for crofters and £1m for fishing from an EU fund run by Marine Scotland last week.
Scottish Conservative MSP Ross Thomson has made an official complaint to the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, the head of the civil service in Scotland, about the redevelopment funding announcement and has called for a response from the First Minister.
Thomson said: “This has been a damning 24 hours of silence from Nicola Sturgeon. She needs to come out of hiding and explain the actions of her government.
“On her watch, ministers have been announcing government funding and promoting government investment in communities where her party is campaigning in vital local and UK-wide elections.
“We need a full investigation into how decisions were taken, when, and by whom – and why the impartial civil service supported these announcements during an election period and in apparent contravention of their own guidance.
“Above all, Scotland deserves a response from the First Minister.
“There are clear rules on how government should behave in the run-up to an election.
“It looks to many voters that the only rule the SNP has followed is how best to use taxpayers’ cash to win votes.
“It stinks to high heaven – and we need to see some clarity from the First Minister now.”
The complaint was echoed by Scottish Labour. Yesterday former Labour leader of Glasgow City Council Frank McAveety said: “This looks like an attempt to sway voters by a desperate SNP administration.
“There must be a full and frank investigation into how this announcement came about – but it seems voters will get no answers before they head to the polls today.
“The public has a right to know who knew what and when, as well as who authorised the release of this information.”
An SNP spokesperson responded: “This is really desperate stuff from the Tories who seem to think the entire business of government needs to shut down for every single election.
“However, we thank the Tories for highlighting numerous examples of how the SNP government is working tirelessly to support Scotland’s economy and in particular our rural economy – a task which is even more crucial in the face of the Tory hard Brexit.”
The Scottish Government pointed out that normal government business continues during an election campaign and the infrastructure progress report was a planned report on ongoing Scottish Government business.
It also noted that the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund grants are for a specific purpose and are determined by an independent panel process, with the timing determined by the process itself.
Likewise it said the Croft House Grant Scheme funding allocating grants to crofters follows an assessment scheme and timing is determined by the scheme itself.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “A letter has been received by the Permanent Secretary regarding the SPRUCE funding announcement and a response will issue in due course.
“Scottish Government business continues throughout the local government election period.
“Ministers and officials continue to carry out their functions in the usual way.
“The pre-election guidance does, however, require officials to take ‘particular care’ about announcements with a specific emphasis on matters which could have a bearing on local election campaigns.
“There is no automatic requirement to defer an announcement and officials are required to consider each case on its merits.
“We understand there is discussion on other specific instances but we are not in receipt of any complaints.
“However these instances represented legitimate government activity, properly considered against the guidance, and in each instance, the judgement was reached that the announcement was appropriate at this time.”
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