SNP government illegally using taxpayers’ money in bid to break up UK – peer

A Tory frontbencher uses lines from the national poet Robert Burns to brand the SNP argument for independence as ‘thin gruel’.

20 July 2022

Nicola Sturgeon’s government has been accused at Westminster of “illegality” in spending British taxpayers’ cash on its campaign to “break up Britain”.

Public money has been used by the SNP administration to produce “party political propaganda” while neutral civil servants have been engaged in the bid for a second Scottish independence referendum, the UK Parliament heard.

The criticism was levelled in the House of Lords as Tory Scotland Office minister Lord Offord of Garvel used lines from the national poet Robert Burns to brand the SNP argument to go it alone as “thin gruel”.

It came after Ms Sturgeon launched a series of papers aimed at making a fresh case for the nation to leave the UK.

The UK Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on whether a second independence referendum could be held without Westminster’s backing, following proposals published by the Scottish First Minister.

Ms Sturgeon wants to hold a referendum on October 19 2023 but the UK’s highest court will consider if this would be in Holyrood’s legislative competence.

Pressed at Westminster over the bid for a another referendum, Lord Offord said: “The Government is clearly of the view that now is not the time to talk about another independence referendum in Scotland.

“People across Scotland want to see both their governments working together on the issues that matter to them.

“That means tackling the cost of living, protecting our long-term energy security, leading the international response against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing our economy so everyone has access to opportunities, skills and jobs for the future.”

Arguing there would not be a second referendum due to opposition by the main UK parties, Labour former Scottish secretary Lord Foulkes of Cumnock said: “Yet the Scottish Government are employing 20 civil servants and printing and producing party political propaganda using UK taxpayers’ money in their campaign to break up Britain.

“Nicola Sturgeon is taking the UK Government for fools.”

He added: “So will the minister take up his strong Scottish arm and say to the Prime Minister and even more important in this context, the head of the civil service, to get the Scottish government to stop this illegality and start using the money that they get from British taxpayers on the services for which they are now responsible.”

Attacking the record of the SNP government, Lord Offord said: “The UK Government is firmly of the view that the Scottish Government should focus on the mantras that the Scottish people want them to deal with, which will make their lives better and not fuss about another pretend referendum.”

Liberal Democrat former leader Lord Campbell of Pittenweem pointed out Scotland’s senior law officer has ruled that holding an independence referendum “would not be within the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament”.

Lord Offord said: “The UK Government is very, very clear this is outside of competence. This is a reserved matter not a devolved matter.”

Dismissing the case put by the SNP for independence, he said: “This is thin gruel.

“As the bard said ‘Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware, That jaups in luggies’.”

Taken from Burns’ Address To A Haggis, it roughly translates as “Old Scotland wants no watery stuff, that splashes about in small wooden dishes.”

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