Scottish National Party ministers have “wasted” nearly £80,000 pounds of taxpayers’ money publishing documents on independence, newly revealed figures have shown.
The Scottish Tories said that it was “outrageous” so much public money was being spent on the SNP’s “pet project”, with the cash going on expenses such as translating the documents into foreign languages.
It does not include the time spent by a team of civil servants coming up with the content of the papers, which the SNP hopes will persuade more Scots to back breaking up the UK.
A team of 24 civil servants are working in the Scottish Government’s “constitutional futures” division, which had total salary costs for 2022-23 of almost £1.4 million.
Nicola Sturgeon began publishing new independence papers in June last year, with the first costing £18,992, including more than £4,000 on design costs and £2,100 for printing physical copies.
Four more papers have been printed since, bringing the total bill to £77,282.
The figure was revealed amid growing scrutiny on whether SNP ministers should be able to use taxpayers’ money to further their aim of breaking up the UK, with the constitution an area reserved to Westminster.
“It is outrageous that taxpayers are picking up this tab for the Nationalists’ pet project,” Donald Cameron, the constitution spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said.
“These partisan papers touting independence are not just a blatant misuse of public money and resources by the SNP, they are a stark reminder of how out of touch they are with most Scots.
“Rather than wasting taxpayers’ cash and civil servants’ time on pushing a divisive, party political agenda, Humza Yousaf should be concentrating on the issues that matter to Scots – such as tackling unacceptable NHS waiting times and the cost of living crisis.”
He added: “The SNP need to drop their independence obsession and instead devote every penny towards helping our struggling public services.”
The independence papers have focused on topics such as the economy, creating a new constitution and citizenship rights.
Critics have said that they have provided little new information about how an independent Scotland would address major challenges and are yet to provide convincing answers on issues such as currency, pensions or borders.
Sir Simon Case, the head of the UK civil service, has said that he is considering investigating whether SNP ministers spending taxpayers money on independence should be allowed.
Some unionists argue that as the constitution is a reserved issue, which was put beyond doubt by the Supreme Court last year when it ruled unanimously that Holyrood could not unilaterally call an independence referendum, the spending should not be allowed.
Sir Simon told the Lords constitution committee in July that it would be “unusual and a bit worrying” if civil servants funded by the taxpayer were being used to try to break up the country.
The Scottish Government has been approached for comment.