THE Scottish Government has revealed that 11 civil servants have now been tasked with overseeing indyref2 plans.

Planning for a second independence referendum was paused when the coronavirus pandemic hit but as cases ease and the impact of the Omicron variant lessens across the country, the Scottish Government has now assigned civil servants to the task once again.

The revelations prompted fury from Unionist politicians, who dubbed the amount being spent on the civil servants' salaries “scandalous”.

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A Freedom of Information request initially asked how much of the 2022-23 budget was set aside for preparations for a new “prospectus” for independence.

The brief has been assigned to the portfolio for Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, headed by SNP MSP Angus Robertson.

We previously told how “necessary preparations” for an independence referendum were included in the latest Scottish Government budget, but no breakdown of the cash involved was given.

The brief overall was allocated £349.5 million for the next parliamentary term, but this included funding for culture and events, Historic Environment Scotland and the National Records of Scotland.

The National:

Prospectus planning for indyref2 falls under Robertson's brief as Constitution Secretary

But now, further information has been revealed that shows work is underway ahead of a second independence referendum. The FOI response stated that the Government was unable to provide a breakdown of the figures.

The release explained: “The work to prepare an independence prospectus will be co-ordinated by a team in the Constitution and Cabinet Directorate, but will draw on other officials across a range of portfolios who will contribute to varying extents as part of their wider responsibilities in supporting the Scottish Government.”

The FOI response did reveal the pay grades and number of staff now assigned to the task, but it did not clarify if this would be their only assignment or if it would be combined with other duties. 

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It added: “The co-ordinating team currently comprises one senior civil servant and 10 other officials (5 graded C2, 4 graded C1 and 1 graded B3).”

According to previous figures available in another FOI release, from August 2021, this would equate to around £750,000 per year.

The National:

The FOI request also asked for a timescale of the work to complete the prospectus.

The Scottish Government said: “As set out in the 2021/22 Programme for Government (PfG), the Scottish Government will work to ensure that a legitimate and constitutional referendum can be held within this Parliament, and if the Covid crisis is over, within the first half of this Parliament.

“The prospectus will be published in advance of a referendum, in time to ensure the people of Scotland have the information they need to make an informed choice about their future.”

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SNP president Michael Russell said: “The people of Scotland have already decided they should have a choice over their future by electing a Scottish Parliament in May with a record majority of pro-independence MSPs.

"Now the preparatory work is underway to develop a blueprint for Scotland as an independent country. This is democracy in action – the Scottish Government delivering the manifesto promises on which they were so overwhelmingly elected.

“This detailed work will ensure that the people of Scotland can make an informed choice when voting in the referendum and are presented with the choice of a better and fairer future in an independent Scotland.

“The chaos and corruption we see at Westminster on a daily basis demonstrates in stark terms why decisions about Scotland should be taken by the people who live here and not by the likes of Boris Johnson.

The National:

SNP President Russell said the work shows 'democracy in action'

“Independence can present the people of Scotland with a different path away from the scandalous and sleaze-ridden Tory UK government at Westminster and the SNP is wholly committed to delivering that in an independence referendum once the pandemic has passed and it is safe to do so.”

The figures sparked fury from pro-Union politicians including Scottish Tory shadow constitution secretary Donald Cameron, who said the SNP should focus on Covid recovery.

He told The Scottish Sun: “It’s scandalous – yet very telling - that they won’t come clean on how much this self-serving project is costing, but even the admission that 11 civil servants are working on this full-time will appall ordinary Scots.

“Nothing better illustrates that the SNP govern in the nationalist interest, not the national interest, than this needless squandering of resources on their obsession with constitutional upheaval.”

It comes after Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC on Sunday that the Scottish Government would decide “within weeks” when it would introduce legislation, paving the way for a fresh independence vote, and she revealed that preparatory work was under way.

The next day, Downing Street responded to the revelations by calling on the SNP to stop the work.