Scotland’s First Minister under fire from peers over minister for independence appointment
New First Minister Humza Yousaf is under fire in Westminster after appointing the Scottish Government’s first minister for independence.
Jamie Hepburn was announced on Wednesday in the government reshuffle, earning a £98,000-a-year salary from public funds.
Several peers raised their objection to the role, arguing that constitutional change was a reserved matter, not a devolved one.
Scottish Labour peer Lord Foulkes of Cumnock said: “In Scotland, we’ve had a minister for tourism since 1999, but they haven’t made such an appointment in the current government of Scotland.
“But instead they’ve appointed a minister for independence – a minister for independence, when the Prime Minister has ruled out a referendum, quite rightly.”
Addressing Treasury minister Baroness Penn, he asked: “Will she get her officials to look into this unauthorised expenditure by the Scottish Government?”
Former Tory Secretary of State for Scotland, Lord Forsyth of Drumlean, asked: “Surely this is a question of the propriety of the use of public funds and that the Scottish Government are involved in spending public money on a matter for which they have no rights?
“If these people were in local government, they would be being surcharged.”
Lady Penn responded: “It shows that the Scottish Government’s priorities lie in the wrong place.
“Instead of seeking to address the priorities of the people of Scotland, whether it’s tourism or whether it’s improving their health and education system, I think the people of Scotland would welcome a greater focus on those issues and less of a focus on something that we recently had a referendum on and settled the issue.”
She added: “It absolutely demonstrates that the priorities of the Scottish Government lie in the wrong place and are not aligned with the people of Scotland.”
Last year, the Scottish Government faced a backlash after it emerged that it had set aside £20 million for a second independence referendum, which they planned to hold in 2023.
But the Supreme Court ruled in November that the Scottish Parliament did not have the power to legislate for another vote without the UK Government’s agreement.
The money was then allocated to tackle fuel poverty in Scotland as the cost-of-living crisis continues.
But Mr Yousaf, who was announced as the winner of the SNP leadership race on Monday, had pledged to create a position in his ministry for an independence portfolio during his campaign.
He defended this to the Sunday National, saying: “Why on Earth would you not use the machinery of government to fund the cause?
“Remember, we’re elected on a platform of independence – perfectly legitimate for us to be using the government to further that cause.”
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