A CROSS-PARTY group of Unionist peers which includes a former deputy first minister is aiming to prevent the Scottish Government spending on issues such as independence and foreign engagement.

Jim Wallace, the former LibDem deputy first minister, has teamed up with the former Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie and the former Scottish Labour MP and MSP George Foulkes in a bid to pressure the UK Government to crack down on Scottish Government spending.

Foulkes has been pressing for the Tory government to prevent the SNP-Green administration from being able to spend in reserved areas for years, with the group's formation his latest move.

Reports said that the Unionist peers will meet for the first time on Tuesday.

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Foulkes told the Scottish Daily Mail that his campaigning had focused on spending on areas such as “an independence minister supported by civil servants, pretend embassies in countries where no separate provision is needed, and overseas aid above and beyond what was agreed”.

The Scottish Government's international offices in Brussels, Washington DC, and Beijing were opened while Labour were in power at Holyrood.

The Scottish Government pointed out that all devolved administrations maintain international offices. The Labour-run Welsh government has 21, while the Scottish Government has nine.

In July 2023, the UK’s top civil servant, Simon Case, said it would be “a bit worrying” if UK taxpayer money were to be spent on efforts for independence in response to questioning from Foulkes.

The National: Simon Case, the current Cabinet Secretary, vented about the Prime Minister during the pandemic (Aaron Chown/PA)

Speaking to the Lords Constitution Committee, Case (above) said that “civil servants in Scotland and Wales can only spend their money on areas that are within their competence”, before confirming that the constitution is a reserved matter.

He was then asked specifically about Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Independence, and the team of 20 civil servants allegedly supporting his work.

Case responded: “We are looking at some of these specifics as we speak, and doing that with ministers at the moment to see whether we need to issue further guidance and clarification to civil servants about what is and is not appropriate spending.”

The Cabinet Secretary, to whom the top civil servants in Scotland and Wales ultimately answer, was criticised for being “partisan” by Stephen Flynn, the SNP’s leader at Westminster.

He said: “We will see what emerges, but anything that further buries the notion that the UK is a voluntary union of countries will backfire in Scotland, and have the effect of boosting support for independence further.

“This reflects a partisan political agenda, and Simon Case admitted that he is working with Tory ministers on potentially preventing the Scottish Government from fulfilling its democratic mandate to explain the case for independence to the people of Scotland.

“A majority of MSPs were elected on a pro-independence platform, and it is the policy of the Scottish Government for Scotland to become a nation state within the European Union.

“If Westminster imposes a double standard that the UK Government can work to uphold the Union, but the Scottish Government can’t promote the benefits of independence, the idea that the UK is anything even close to a partnership of equals will have been tested to its destruction.”