Whitehall boss considers whether to stop civil service work on Scotland | Scottish independence

Simon Case, the head of the British civil service, is investigating whether civil servants in Scotland should still be allowed to do work related to a second independence referendum, Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, has said.

Jack said the Cabinet Secretary and Whitehall’s integrity and ethics team were examining whether it was appropriate to continue working on independence in light of the High Court ruling that only the UK government could allow a second poll.

The issue was raised at the Scottish Affairs Committee in Westminster by the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, who accused Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government of “wasting money” on the case for independence, adding: “We know how expensive this has been. been.”

“I think the people of Scotland would rightly be concerned that there continue to be hundreds of thousands of pounds, indeed millions of pounds annually spent by civil servants on the instructions of the First Minister of the Scottish Government in what is now a party election issue, because the first the minister wants to make this a single issue at the next general election, he said.

Jack told him the issue of civil servants working with independence was “very serious” and “needs to be looked at again” following last week’s court ruling.

Britain’s Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the Scottish Parliament could not hold another independence referendum without Westminster approval in a unanimous ruling that angered Scottish nationalists who say the country’s future is up to Scottish voters to decide.

In the select committee hearing on Monday, Jack revealed that the UK government had spent around £71,800 defending the argument in the High Court case. The Scottish Government spent approximately £130,000 on the trial and commissioned a number of documents looking at the case for independence, believed to cost tens of thousands of pounds.

Jack told the committee: “Regarding the Civil Service in Scotland, the Permanent Secretary to the Scottish Government liaises closely with Simon Case, Sue Gray, the Cabinet Compliance and Ethics Team. This has been the case since 2014 when there was a review after the referendum. What I would say is following this judgment, they are working again on what it will mean for the role of the Civil Service in Scotland. We’ll see where it takes us. These people, led by the Secretary of State, are working again on what this means, Jack said.

However, it is understood that it will be quite a high bar for the case and the Minister to reject any work on independence being carried out in the future.

It comes after an organization called Scottish Business UK (SBUK), which describes itself as an independent, non-partisan voice for business leaders who support the union, threatened to bring a legal challenge to the Scottish Government over spending on referendum work. About two dozen civil servants are believed to be working on the First Minister’s updated prospectus for independence, and three papers have already been published.

But Aileen McHarg, professor of public law at Durham University, challenged that idea, saying: “It only takes a moment’s thought to know that’s a ridiculous position to take.”

Separately, the Scottish Conservatives are challenging the allocation of £20 million for spending on a referendum, with Donald Cameron, an MSP, saying he had written to the permanent secretary to clarify whether it would go ahead. Scottish Government sources said this had always been conditional on a High Court ruling in their favor to hold a referendum next year, and plans for that funding would be set out in the near future.

The Scottish Government has been contacted for comment.

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