Macpherson and Housden challenged on impartiality amid accusations of politicisation in Scottish debate

Sir Nicholas Macpherson, the Treasury permanent secretary, has told MPs that he decided to publish his advice warning the chancellor against a currency union with an independent Scotland because it was “vital to the national interest”.

Yui Mok/PA Wire/Press Association Images

By Suzannah.Brecknell

17 Apr 2014

Macpherson ​(pictured) told the Public Administration Select Committee (PASC) that the advice was published in order to clarify the UK government’s position and diffuse concerns in financial markets, not to influence Scottish voters.

“Throughout the debate on economic issues the Scottish government has sought to cast doubt on the British government’s position,” he said. “My view in this case – and it’s a very exceptional case – is that if publishing advice could strengthen the credibility of the government’s position, then it was my duty to do it.”

He was also asked about the white paper Scotland’s Future, which has come under fire for including policies the SNP would introduce following a ‘yes’ vote – thus presenting SNP policies as among the benefits of independence. Macpherson noted that “the Treasury tends to favour rather drier language than perhaps some elements of that white paper.”

Conservative MSP Liz Smith last week criticised Sir Peter Housden, permanent secretary of the Scottish Government, because no minutes were kept of meetings between government officials and the SNP about the white paper. She said that the meeting appears to have been “shrouded in secrecy”, demonstrating “the blurring of lines between the SNP” and the civil service.

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