With its expenditure on the Scotland Office, which the SNP terms a ‘zombie agency,’ the UK government has been accused of wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money.
The £ 8.5 million bill for 2019/20 – more than £ 1.2 million more than the previous year – was entirely unjustified, as the Scotland Office had become nothing more than a “Tory propaganda unit.” said Mhairi Black, the party’s spokeswoman for the Scotland Office.
But the UK government hit back last night, dismissing the attack by the nationalists as “petty and unfounded” and claiming it was disappointing considering the value of public knowledge sharing during the coronavirus pandemic. She found out that only a “fraction” of what the SNP government spent on advertising and communication expenses was spent by the Scottish Office.
New statistics on office expenditure in Scotland emerged from a request for freedom of information submitted by the SNP, which showed:
* Investment grew from £ 7.3 million in 2018/19 to £ 8.5 million last year – it was £ 4.9 million in 2013/14;
* In the 12 months to 2019, communications spending rose from £ 3,700 to £ 1,354,776 – in 2013/14 it was £ 509,343;
*Total advertisement budget decreased from £ 58,406 to £ 36,704 for 2019/20 – this was nil in 2013/14.
* In the year to 2019/20, the number of communications employees rose by two to 17 – there were eight in 2013/14.
Ms Black said, “It is hard to believe that the Tory government is wasting millions of pounds of taxpayer money on this zombie department after a decade of Tory savings cuts, which has completely failed to stand up for Scotland in the face of extreme Brexit and Tory greed for power.”
The Scotland Office is now nothing more than a propaganda unit of the Tory, and the enormous increases in spending on spin doctors and advertisements are entirely indefensible, particularly when Scottish taxpayers are forced to pay the bill,”The Scotland Office is now little more than a Tory propaganda unit and the huge increases in spending on spin doctors and advertising are completely indefensible; especially when Scottish taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill,”
However, the UK government tried to draw a distinction with the comparable expenditure of the Scottish government in reporting the Scottish Office estimates.
It noted, “To take these figures into account, the reported communications spending of the Scottish core government in 2017/18 included £ 2,645,087 on press officer staff costs alone, and another £ 5,731,087 on marketing and advertising costs [totaling nearly £ 8.4 million].” The [Scottish] Office, by contrast, spent a combined £ 431,601 on these two items in 2017/18.
On the subject of social media promotion, Whitehall said the estimated spending on social media promotion by the core Scottish government in 2017/18 was £ 277,369, compared to £ 22,829 for the Office of Scotland.
It also said that in 2018/19, the Scottish government had 126.9 full-time equivalent employees in its communications department; the Scotland Office had 15 for the same year.
“A UK government spokeswoman said in response to the SNP’s criticism, “This is a petty and baseless assault and very disappointing at a time when public information has never been more critical.
“The Secretary of State’s communications team has been working flat out and working closely with colleagues in the Scottish Government to ensure that people and businesses across Scotland have the information they need to stay safe and deal with Covid-19.”
She highlighted how in the heart of Whitehall, the Scotland Office serves Scottish interests and supports the UK government’s work in Scotland, which involves communicating UK government policy to individuals around the world.
“To do this, the office delivers all the communications functions and activities expected and required of a central UK government department,” he said.
“Using digital communications is a cost-effective way for the UK government to communicate key messages to the public, such as national awareness campaigns and policy initiatives, as well as helping Scottish businesses prepare for EU withdrawal,” she said.