SCOTTISH Government civil servants have been accused of peddling “SNP propaganda” using taxpayers’ money after promoting an anti-Brexit video on social media.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said he had written to both UK Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and the Scottish Government Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans about the matter.
Demanding an apology, he suggested Scottish officials may have broken the civil service code on political neutrality by promoting the video, which argues Scotland should be independent and rejoin the EU.
He highlighted a section of the code saying officials must not “act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes”.
However civil servants are also required to help ministers deliver their political agendas.
When Boris Johnson signed the deal on Christmas Eve, his official UK Prime Minister account on Twitter hailed it as “great news for British families and businesses”.
He added: “We can now take full advantage of the fantastic opportunities available to us as an independent trading nation, striking trade deals with other partners around the world.”
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack later issued an official statement, through his officials, calling the deal “good news for Scotland” that pointed to an “exciting future”.
Scotland didn’t vote to leave the EU, but we will work hard to mitigate the worst effects of #Brexit.
Here’s what it means for Scotland ⬇
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) December 30, 2020
The row coincided with the Scottish Government publishing a new analysis of what the post-Brexit EU-UK trade coming into effect at 11pm tonight means for Scotland.
SNP Constitution Secretary Mike Russell said Scotland’s forced exit from the EU single market and customs union would “hit jobs and living standards hard”.
The difficulties offsetting the harms also underlined why the Scottish Government believed “the best future for Scotland is as an independent country within the EU”, he said.
The Tories directed their anger at a video promoted by the official Scotttish Government Twitter accounts which said the trade deal was “a bad deal for Scotland”.
It also said the deal would cause “greater risk to national security” and concluded by saying: “We believe Scotland has the right to choose a better future as an independent country.”
The deal is done. pic.twitter.com/zzhvxOSeWz
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) December 24, 2020
On Twitter, the video, which bears the Scotish Government’s official logo, is accompanied by the message: “Scotland didn’t vote to leave the EU, but we will work hard to mitigate the worst effects of #Brexit. Here’s what it means for Scotland.”
There is also a link to a Scottish Government news release dated December 25 headed “Bad Brexit deal for Scotland” containing further quotes from Mr Russell.
Mr Ross said: “This video is a work of shameless propaganda and it’s incredible that a politically neutral civil service would think it is in any way appropriate.
“For taxpayers to be bankrolling a work of one-sided Nationalist distortion is not on.
“The government is supposed to represent everyone in Scotland.
“Today I have written to Simon Case, the UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service and also to Leslie Evans, Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government.
“The truth is the UK-EU trade deal has been welcomed by Scottish business leaders who say it is good for jobs and the economy.
“This video tries to take us all for fools, especially the one million plus Scots who voted to leave the EU.
“We know Nicola Sturgeon and her party cannot accept reality… but the civil service should play no part in peddling SNP propaganda, falsehoods and grievance.
“We need an apology for this video, its removal from Scottish Government sites and an explanation of how this was authorised and the cost to taxpayers.”
Publishing the Scottish Government’s initial analysis of the 1,246-page trade deal, Mr Russell said the loss of previous freedoms and new bureaucracy and barriers to trade involved meant it would have an impact on services, fisheries, participartion in EU programmes, security, freedom of movement and the environment.
He said: “This analysis is sobering reading for anyone with Scotland’s best interests at heart.
“Post-Brexit relationships with the EU could have taken many different forms and the damaging outcome with which we are now faced is the result of a political choice by the UK Government, and firmly against the wishes of Scotland.
“As a responsible government we are doing everything we can to mitigate against the consequences of the UK Government’s actions, but we cannot avert every negative outcome.
“We know that businesses are already struggling under the burden of COVID-19, and are now faced with the need to prepare for the economic shock of this hard Brexit.
“Our position is clearer than ever – Scotland now has the right to choose its own future, as an independent country and seek to regain the benefits of EU membership.
“This analysis demonstrates the substantial benefits that we would regain by becoming an independent member state in our own right.”