LABOUR leadership has distanced itself from calls from one of the party’s peers for the UK Government to step in and prevent the Scottish Government spending on independence.

George Foulkes, termed “Baron Foulkes of Cumnock”, has raised the issue repeatedly at Westminster in recent months, culminating in Cabinet Secretary Simon Case confirming that UK officials are probing the devolved government’s expenditure.

Case, the most senior civil servant in the UK, said in July it would be “worrying” if devolved administrations were using public funds to spend in reserved areas, and said new guidance could be issued within “weeks”.

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Appearing at an event in Rutherglen on Tuesday, UK Labour leader Keir Starmer was asked for his position on Foulkes’s calls and if he thought the Westminster government should block Scottish Government spending or use of the civil service on independence.

Starmer said he had not seen what was said so he was “not in a position to comment”.

But Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour group leader (below left), said that it was not the UK Government’s role to “impose” restrictions on Scottish Government spending.

The National: Scottish Labour group leader Anas Sarwar (left) and UK Labour leader Keir Starmer

Starmer (above right) went on: “Look, I think the position on independence that Anas and I have set out many, many times is that a stronger Scotland is a changed Britain is a better option than independence when we look at the challenges that Scotland faces and the United Kingdom faces as we go forward.

“Now, that has to be a change programme. Nobody wants to argue for the status quo. That’s why we commissioned Gordon Brown to look at what the change options would be and we worked together the whole time on what that change would look like.

“So that’s a very clear position on it, and on the particular comments I just haven’t seen them.”

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Sarwar then said: “It’s for the Scottish Government to set the tone of the budget, not for the UK Government to impose what the Scottish Government does with its budget.

“I think the bigger fear for the SNP will be less on the money that’s being spent but actually how uninterested the Scottish people are in what they’re producing. You can see that from the figures that have downloaded the papers they’re producing or those that are engaging in the debates about information they’re producing.

“They’re completely out of touch and they’re hemorrhaging support across the country. That’s a much bigger concern I think for Humza Yousaf than a UK Government deciding how he sets his budget.”

Foulkes (below) told The National that he “fully agreed” with Starmer, and questioned if Sarwar’s comment was actually to be read as ruling out any future Labour government blocking devolved spending on independence.

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The peer said: “I have now read Keir Starmer’s answer fully and agree with every word of it. Indeed I have been in regular touch with both Gordon Brown and Keir Starmer on our plans for reform of the governance of the UK, including replacing the House of Lords with a senate of the nations and regions.

“Starmer did not rule out what I am proposing but merely said he is not aware of the details, so I am sending some to his office.”

He went on: “Anas’s answer does not deal with spending on reserved areas but with the ‘tone’ of the budget and whether to ‘impose’ spending. Neither rule out stopping the use of civil servants and taxpayers’ money on a party political campaign in favour of independence which is what the SNP are doing.”

Foulkes added that he expected the issue to have “already been dealt with” before the next General Election.

Previously, Humza Yousaf has said that the Scottish Government is "very confident" that it can legally spend its public funding on independence preparations, including the series of white papers being produced on issues from the economy to citizenship.