Nicola Sturgeon’s £2.3m plot to woo Brussels – SNP splurges taxpayer cash to lobby EU
Indyref2: SNP's Brexit criticism slammed by Tory MSP
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The Scottish Government is hiring policy staff for their Brussels Office, part of their network of Overseas Offices which aims to boost Scottish interests across the world and boost engagement with states and organisations. Ministers recently allocated £5.94million on the running of their seven offices in the 2021-22 financial year.
However, the Scottish Government will spend £2.31million of its funding on the running of its Brussels office, where officials regularly liaise with EU bodies including the Commission.
One position for an Environment and Transport policy adviser involves providing “forward intelligence on emerging EU law to support Scotland based policy teams and Ministers.”
It comes after MSPs passed the European Union (Continuity) Scotland Bill aims to give SNP ministers the power to align Scottish laws with those of the EU after Brexit.
The advert for a policy adviser, who would start in August, reads: “You will take up post at a challenging time as Scotland feels the full impact of loss of EU membership, now as part of a third country.
“It is also an exciting moment as Scotland looks to renew and develop new relationships with European stakeholders.”
Scottish Ministers also said in a Business Plan for Scotland House Brussels that Ministers wanted to “promote understanding around discussions on Scotland’s constitutional future” to the EU as well as the Member States.
In the 2020-21 plan, officials claim Brussels stakeholders and influencers also “understand Scotland’s distinct position on its right to choose its constitutional future.”
The document stresses the importance of Scotland’s voice “being heard in Brussels” and Scotland’s EU interests and place in Europe are protected.
Officials were also keen to stress the importance of “monitoring EU policy and regulation” which Edinburgh argues would ensure that “Scotland can continue to engage as far as possible in EU policy discussions.”
They added in the plan: “A key priority is to gather intelligence on, and influence, the negotiations on the future UK-EU relationship to ensure Scotland’s interests are respected.”
But Holyrood opposition parties claimed the SNP led Government ministers work was fuelling “constitutional division.”
Stephen Kerr MSP, Scottish Conservative Chief Whip, said: “This raises further questions about the SNP Government spending taxpayers money on furthering potential constitutional division within their work in Brussels.
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“Taxpayers will be wondering why they were advertising these sort of positions when they should have been focusing on the pandemic.
“Despite the UK Government continuing to promote strong links within Europe, it appears the SNP, on the other hand, are still failing to accept the results of referendums and are continuing to obsess over their separatist agenda.”
Mr Kerr has previously complained in a letter to Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab about the Ministers decision to open the Overseas Offices.
In the letter, he requested that the UK Government remind First Minister Nicola Sturgeon “of the missions and embassies provided by the UK Government.”
However, the UK Government was slated by the SNP for “wasting” £160,000 on recruiting a “Brexit Opportunities Director”.
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Public contract data reveals the UK government has paid a recruitment firm £43,000 to help employ a Director, who will earn an annual salary of £120,000 per year.
Drew Hendry claimed the public “would be astonished” that the Tories are throwing away even more taxpayers’ money on Brexit, having already cost the UK billions of pounds since the EU referendum.
The Inverness MP added: “It beggars belief that the Tory Government is whittling away another £160,000 of taxpayers’ money on a Brexit bureaucrat, having already cost Scotland billions of pounds through their Brexit obsession.
“Boris Johnson’s hard Brexit has been a disaster for Scotland – hammering our economy with mountains of added costs, red tape, and barriers to trade with our European neighbours – a market seven times the size of the UK.”
A spokesman for Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson, said: “We make no apology for promoting Scotland internationally – something that is more important than ever in the face of the Tories’ disastrous Brexit and the huge damage it is causing to our economy, jobs and trade.
“The work to attract investment by our offices both at home and overseas has helped increase foreign direct investment into Scotland by 6 percent in 2020, compared to a 12 percent fall across the UK as a whole.”
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