Focus on the NHS, jobs and the cost of living rather than nationalist blueprints to break up Britain, Rishi tells Humza Yousaf as he backs probe into SNP spending
- He urged First Minister to focus on people’s priorities like the NHS and economy
Rishi Sunak yesterday backed an investigation into the use of taxpayers’ money on Humza Yousaf’s push for independence.
During a visit to Scotland, the Prime Minister waded into the row about the SNP’s use of public money and civil service time on its blueprints for breaking up Britain.
He said it is right the head of the civil service, Simon Case, is probing whether publicly funded officials should be forced to work on policy papers for leaving the UK.
Mr Sunak, who was in Scotland to unveil huge new investment in the oil and gas sector, also urged the First Minister to focus on people’s priorities such as the NHS and the economy rather than on ‘constitutional wrangling’.
Asked whether he wanted action taken on the Scottish Government spending money on independence when the constitution is not within its devolved powers, Mr Sunak said: ‘What’s right is that, as the head of the civil service, it is Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary, who conducts a review of that particular situation… and I think it’s right that we let that continue.’
During a visit to Scotland, the Prime Minister (pictured) waded into the row about the SNP’s use of public money and civil service time on its blueprints for breaking up Britain
After he became First Minister in March, Mr Yousaf (pictured) created a new post of Minister for Independence and published a further two reports in the Building a New Scotland series outlining policies for separation
After he became First Minister in March, Mr Yousaf created a new post of Minister for Independence and published a further two reports in the Building a New Scotland series outlining policies for separation.
An army of 24 civil servants costing £1.4million a year is now working in the Scottish Government’s ‘constitutional futures division’, which is responsible for the Building a New Scotland papers.
READ MORE: SNP leader Humza Yousaf’s plan to turn the general election into a ‘de facto’ Scottish independence vote ‘probably’ won’t work, admits one of his party’s senior MPs
Last year, the Supreme Court ruled Holyrood ministers could not legislate for a referendum on independence without UK Government consent because the constitution is reserved to Westminster.
Mr Sunak added: ‘What I’m focused on is delivering for the people of Scotland, as I am for people across the UK. I’m focused on their priorities and I don’t think their priority is more constitutional wrangling.
‘Their priorities are the priorities that I’ve set out – it’s about bringing down inflation, easing the burden on the cost of living, it’s about the economy growing, creating jobs, as today’s announcement illustrates.
‘It’s about cutting waiting lists as we have got strong action to do in England and that’s what people want to see in Scotland as well. Those are the issues concerning people, not constitutional wrangling.
‘I’ve always said I’m happy to work with the Scottish Government to deliver for people in Scotland. You saw that when I was last here and we announced the creation of two freeports, which are a great example of doing something together which is good for Scotland, people’s jobs and the economy.’
Pressed on his concerns about Scottish Government activity on independence, he said: ‘I’ve said it is right there is a review by the Cabinet Secretary, it’s right we let that review conclude.’
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack, who was with the PM as he spoke at the St Fergus gas plant in Aberdeenshire, said: ‘Taxpayer money should be spent on public services in Scotland – that is where the focus should be, we are very clear about that.
‘And Simon Case has said he is looking into it. But it is important that doesn’t have any political interference.’
Mr Sunak added: ‘What I’m focused on is delivering for the people of Scotland, as I am for people across the UK. I’m focused on their priorities and I don’t think their priority is more constitutional wrangling’
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack (left), who was with the PM as he spoke at the St Fergus gas plant in Aberdeenshire, said: ‘Taxpayer money should be spent on public services in Scotland – that is where the focus should be, we are very clear about that’
Last week, Cabinet Office minister Baroness Lucy Neville-Rolfe confirmed a proposal to impose penalties will be considered as part of an investigation into how public funds are being spent
Labour peer Lord George Foulkes has called for the introduction of ‘sanctions’ when ministers at Holyrood ‘stray into reserved areas’.
Mr Case has told MPs that civil servants could refuse to work on independence plans if they are judged to relate to reserved areas. He described such spending as ‘unusual’ and ‘worrying’, and said the results of his probe would be announced ‘within weeks’.
The Scottish Conservatives last week described a new paper launched by Mr Yousaf on citizenship in an independent Scotland as ‘a blatant misuse of public money’.
Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: ‘People pay taxes with the expectation governments will spend the money on vital services like the NHS and schools. What they don’t expect is ministers to waste it on vanity projects like the Nationalists’ latest propaganda.’
A spokesman for Mr Yousaf said: ‘The Scottish Government was elected on a commitment to give people an informed choice about their constitutional future – that is what we will continue to do.’
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