Independence Referendum (Work on Prospectus)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 31st March 2022.

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Photo of Russell Findlay Russell Findlay Conservative

1. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide an update on how many of its staff members are working on the prospectus for another independence referendum. (S6O-00942)

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

The work to prepare an independence prospectus is being co-ordinated by the constitutional futures division within the Scottish Government’s constitution and Cabinet directorate. That division is currently comprised of one senior civil servant and 14 other officials. The work will draw on other officials across a range of portfolios, who will contribute to varying extents as part of their wider responsibilities in supporting the Scottish Government.

Photo of Russell Findlay Russell Findlay Conservative

People across Scotland will be dismayed to discover that the Scottish National Party Government is diverting yet more precious staff and resources towards another referendum. The SNP’s programme for government said that work on that would take place only if the Covid crisis was over. Why is the cabinet secretary’s Government ignoring its own programme and squandering money on its obsession with a referendum, which the people of Scotland do not want?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

I commend the member for the implicit recognition in his original question that there will be an independence referendum. That is very welcome.

The member and I differed on the issue in the Scottish Parliament election last year but, as democrats, I hope that we all recognise that the parties that were committed to there being a referendum won the election, and that the parties that opposed a referendum, such as his, lost the election.

We are now getting on with delivering on the policy of the Government, including a prospectus, ahead of the independence referendum, and I look forward to further announcements on that in the future.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

A couple of members have supplementaries.

Photo of Kenneth Gibson Kenneth Gibson Scottish National Party

Can the cabinet secretary tell us how many Government staff are currently working on Brexit-related matters for a policy that Scotland did not vote for, unlike an independence referendum, which Scotland did vote for? Does he agree that the £120 million that the United Kingdom Tory Government squandered on its ludicrous festival of Brexit earlier this month was a complete waste of public money?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

As I have mentioned, the constitutional futures division that is working on the prospectus is comprised of one senior civil servant and 14 other officials. The far-reaching consequences of Brexit have meant that almost all parts of the Scottish Government have had, or continue to have, officials dedicated to assessing and responding to the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Brexit has resulted in exports of UK goods falling by 14 per cent in the three months to January, while the global average continued to rise over the same period. The opportunities of independence stand in stark contrast to the economic damage that is being caused by Brexit, and it must be up to the people of Scotland to decide their future.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

Despite the war in Ukraine, the pandemic that is raging, with Scotland having the highest infection rates in the whole of the UK, the enormous hospital waiting times, the fact that people are desperate for care home packages and the ferries construction scandal, the cabinet secretary carries on regardless. If even independence supporters do not think that there should be an independence referendum now, why is he carrying on regardless?

Photo of Angus Robertson Angus Robertson Scottish National Party

I always thought that, in a democracy, it was recognised by democrats, including those who stood in the name of the member’s party, the Liberal Democrats, that when one stood in an election on a manifesto that opposed something and lost, the party that won that election—which in this case it did on a manifesto to deliver a referendum—should deliver on that. I would have thought that even a Liberal Democrat would recognise that the democratic result of last year’s election would compel us to get on with our policy platform, instead of jeering from the sidelines in opposition to that democratic result.