Cab sec weighing up civil servants' role in Scottish independence referendum

Case and Scottish Government perm sec are working on what Supreme Court judgement means for the civil service
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled the Scottish Parliament does not have the powers to legislate for another referendum. Photo: Lazyllama/Alamy Stock Photo

By Ruaraidh Gilmour

29 Nov 2022

Cabinet secretary Simon Case is examining whether civil servants should still be allowed to do work relating to a second Scottish independence referendum, according to Scotland secretary Alister Jack.  

Speaking at the Scottish Affairs Committee, Jack said Case and Whitehall’s propriety and ethics team are looking into whether working on Scottish independence is still appropriate. This comes after the judgement from the Supreme Court last week that determined the Scottish Parliament does not have the powers to legislate for another referendum.  

Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, criticised Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government for “wasting money” arguing the case for independence.  

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

Jack described civil servants working on independence as “very serious”.  

“Regarding the civil service in Scotland, the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government stays in close contact with Simon Case, Sue Gray, the propriety and ethics team in the Cabinet Office. That has been the case since 2014 when there was a review following the referendum.

"What I would say is following this judgement they are working again on what that will mean for the role of the civil service in Scotland. We will have to see where that takes us. Those people, led by the cabinet secretary, are working again on what this means,” Jack said.  

He revealed that just under £72,000 had been spent by the UK Government on legal fees for the Supreme Court case, while the Scottish Government spent around £130,000. 

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In light of majority support within the Scottish Parliament for an independence referendum, Scottish ministers remain ready to engage with the UK government at any point on delivering that referendum.

"The Scottish Government will also continue to set out, through the Building a New Scotland prospectus series, what could be done with the full powers of independence, reflecting its Programme for Government commitments. 

“It is the role of the civil service to support the elected government of the day in developing and implementing its policies.” 

Ruaraidh Gilmour is a journalist for CSW's sister title Holyrood, where this story first appeared

Read the most recent articles written by Ruaraidh Gilmour - Rishi Sunak backs probe into Scottish Government’s independence spending

Share this page