THE SNP have warned Tory plans to slash the civil service to its pre-Brexit levels could hit Scotland harder than the rest of the UK.

Deputy Westminster Leader Kirsten Oswald has branded the proposals to cut up to 90,000 jobs – or one in five – as “detached from reality”. The Prime Minister is understood to have told ministers on Thursday that the service should be slashed by a fifth, as he moved to free up cash for measures to ease the cost-of-living crisis with possible tax cuts.

And the MP has claimed Scotland could bear the brunt of the move given that more than 6000 reserved civil service jobs have been cut since 2011 – equating to 20% of the workforce – at a rate of nearly double the UK average of 11%.

She said: “These staggering plans from the Prime Minister are completely detached from reality. As fam-ilies and households up and down the country are terrified to open their bills and face soaring energy and shopping prices, threatening a fifth of civil service staff with the sack is shameful.

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“Figures show the percentage of job cuts in reserved departments in Scotland has almost been double that of the rest of the UK. The DWP, HMRC and MoD have all shown far greater falls in job numbers than the rest of the UK over the past decade despite boasts in 2011 about how many jobs the Westminster government controlled in Scotland.

“Scotland has already paid the price of Westminster government job cuts. It would therefore be another example of how out of touch the Westminster government is in Scotland if it sacks even more civil servants in Scotland.

“This heartless Tory government has made one thing crystal clear – the only people they care about are themselves. Governments of all political colours have tough decisions to make as budgets are squeezed – but these proposals smack of spite from a Tory government that has demonised the civil service for too long.”

Between 2011 and 2021, the number of civil servants working for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) fell by a whopping 30% – from 12,910 to 9040 – while those working for HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) dropped by 21% – from 9920 to 7770. Civil service jobs in the Ministry of Defence (MoD) fell by 24.8% over the decade, from 5450 to 4100. Meanwhile, the number of Scottish Government Civil Servants in Scotland increased by almost 30% during the same period, with 22,210 working as of March last year.

UK Efficiency Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg defended the plan yesterday, saying the job cuts would bring numbers back to 2016 levels after extra staff were brought in to help deal with the pandemic and the “aftermath of Brexit”.

He said in a TV interview: “I know it sounds eye-catching but it’s just getting back to the civil service we had in 2016 … since then, we’ve had to take on people for specific tasks. So dealing with the aftermath of Brexit and dealing with Covid, so there’s been a reason for that increase, but we’re now trying to get back to normal.”

Rees-Mogg, who is also Brexit opportunities minister, said he had seen “duplication” within Government departments, and the axing would mean people were being used “as efficiently as possible”.

“What I’ve seen within the Cabinet Office, which is where I work and bear in mind each secretary of state will be responsible for his or her own department, is that there’s duplication within Government, so you have a communications department and then you have within another department some people doing communications,” he said.

Asked why the cuts were not being described as a return to austerity, he said: “I don’t think it is because what is being done is getting back to the efficiency levels we had in 2016.”

Johnson made the demands as the Government comes under intense pressure to ease the pain of soaring prices. But the FDA civil servants’ union warned the “ill-thought-out” proposal could have impacts on passport processing, borders and health.

Sources familiar with Boris Johnson’s Cabinet conversation said he told ministers to return the Civil Service to its 2016 levels in the coming years. It was said its numbers had grown since then to 475,000 full-time equivalent jobs.

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The PM told the Daily Mail: “We have got to cut the cost of Government to reduce the cost of living.”

He suggested the billions saved could be used for tax cuts, saying: “Every pound the Government pre-empts from the taxpayer is money they can spend on their own priorities, on their own lives.”

Sources did not deny that the sweeping cut to public jobs could be used for future tax reductions.

Johnson wants a recruitment freeze across Whitehall to start soon, with the abolition of any vacancies unless they are signed off by ministers.

Ministers are expected to report back within a month with plans to achieve cuts from their departments.