Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of being “distracted by the politics of division” by Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack. He told the Scottish Affairs Select Committee that he is “relieved” to be able to “talk about the priorities of the Scottish people”, following the Supreme Courts decision to block Ms Sturgeon’s latest attempt to secure independence for Scotland. Mr Jack revealed to the committee that the UK spent £71,800 in total on defending the Supreme Court Case.
Speaking about the Supreme Court’s judgement, which was delivered on Wednesday, he said: “Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for a fresh vote without Rishi Sunak’s consent.
“The Supreme Court’s unanimous and unequivocal judgement confirmed the UK Government’s longstanding view that the constitution is wholly reserved to the United Kingdom Parliament and we note and we respect that judgement.
“Rather than being distracted by the politics of division, our unrelenting focus is now on working with the Scottish Government to deliver for the Scottish people.”
Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for a fresh vote without Rishi Sunak’s consent.
But in a press conference after the ruling, Ms Sturgeon vowed to continue pushing for independence, saying: “As long as there is breath in my body, I refuse to give up on the basic principle of democracy.”
Earlier this week, it was revealed that the Scottish Government has spent up to £1.5million to pay civil servants working on putting together the case for independence.
According to the Telegraph, the Government will write to the permanent secretary of the Scottish government, John-Paul Marks, and are seeking Whitehall advice on the issue.
Conservative MP Donald Cameron, shadow constitution secretary, said Mr Marks has a legal duty to seek “a ministerial direction” – a formal objection to SNP ministers spending public money on an area over which they have no responsibility.
Permanent secretaries of Whitehall departments and the devolved administrations are obliged to seek a ministerial direction if they believe any spending proposal is beyond the powers of their respective ministers.
Mr Cameron added: “Given there will be no referendum in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, I see no justification for the SNP Government continuing to deploy 25 civil servants – at a combined annual cost to the taxpayer of £1.5 million – to pursue the case for independence.
“At the very least Nicola Sturgeon is blurring the lines between party and government; at worst, she is misusing civil servants to work on her party’s strategy for the next UK general election.”
A group of businessmen, led by care home tycoon Robert Kilgour, has also obtained legal advice suggesting that it may be illegal for Scottish ministers to spend public money on independence when they don’t have the power to hold a referendum on the issue.
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The group has said it is “scandalous” that Ms Sturgeon’s government is spending public money on the issue, rather than using SNP funds.
It has instructed a leading KC to set out options to tackle the issue, including a possible judicial review in the Court of Session.
The case is set to focus on the claim that use of public resources on independence by SNP ministers is beyond their legal power or authority.
Mr Kilgour described the use of public money as “arrogance beyond belief”.