Freedom on Information documents published by the Scottish Conservatives today reveal the Scottish Government’s secret preparations for a second independence referendum.
A key advice note from permanent secretary Lesley Evans - originally redacted by SNP Ministers – reveals that:
- The Scottish Government’s top civil servant warned that another referendum might have an “impact” on the delivery of the SNP’s so-called key priorities.
- A referendum would start the clock on Scottish Government’s civil servants beginning “transitional planning” for “moving to an independent Scotland”
- Delivering a referendum would mean the civil service having to step up the “deprioritisation of activity” in other key domestic priorities.
The Scottish Conservatives are today calling on SNP Ministers to halt all civil service work preparations on independence, and instead focus all resources on key domestic priorities – education, law and order, and the NHS.
The advice note from Ms Evans was sent to the First Minister, Deputy First Minister John Swinney and Finance Secretary Derek Mackay in March 2017, a few weeks after Nicola Sturgeon had declared her plan to push for a second referendum on independence.
She has now insisted such a referendum should take place as early as next year – and made clear on Tuesday’s statement to parliament that this is her priority.
Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said:
“The SNP tried to keep this document under wraps and it’s clear why.
“It shows that delivering Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum on independence won’t just divide our country all over again, it will push your school, your local hospital and your high street to the back of the queue.
“Instead of focussing on delivery, Sturgeon’s Nationalist government will be focussed on division.
“And instead of sorting our Scotland’s schools, a referendum would see taxpayer-funded civil servants working on the ‘transition’ to independence.
“She said it would be once in a generation. It turns out it’s been every hour of every day since she lost. It’s a complete betrayal of the 2014 vote.
“With violent crime on the rise, hospital projects in tatters, and our education system failing to deliver, Nicola Sturgeon needs to listen for once. Dump the independence referendum, and focus on what really matters.”
Notes to editors: The full redacted and unredacted versions of the documents can be found here -
The unredacted advice note from Lesley Evans to Deputy First Minister John Swinney reveals:
She highlighted the impact that a referendum would have on 'the day job'. The new unredacted section reads: “We will also seek to present Ministers with evidence and analysis, including on the wider implications that may arise from decisions and actions required to prepare for a referendum, whether individually or in aggregate. That analysis will include offering a view about the impact that delivering the referendum, and preparing for its outcome, might have on the Government’s wider programme of activity to deliver your Programme for Government commitments. However, we understand your strong commitment to delivery of the Government’s wider priorities and to the continued focus on education as the Government’s defining mission.”
Civil servants have started making plans in the event of an independent Scotland. The new unredacted section reads: “It will be important too for the civil service to develop robust plans to ensure our readiness to implement either outcome of the referendum. That work will include transitional planning for moving to an independent Scotland.”
Civil servants highlighted the difficulty of preparing for indyref2 while the UK leaves the EU. The new unredacted section reads: “Preparing for both the referendum and for the UK’s departure from the EU will require focus and careful management. Work on a referendum will take place in parallel with work to prepare for the impact of exiting the European Union, following the PM’s notification today of her intent to pursue that outcome. We will ensure that Ministers have the support that they need in order to exert the maximum influence in the UK EU negotiations.”
The Scottish Government would have to ‘deprioritise’ policy areas for indyref2. The new unredacted section reads: “We will continue our work to ensure that we are using the resources of the civil service to maximum effect and to identify where we see scope for deprioritisation of activity and essential augmentation of skills or capacity - which would be made necessary by Brexit, notwithstanding the decision on the referendum.”