Labour peer says UK should consider cutting Scottish funding over indyref2

UK ministers should consider cutting the Scottish Government's funding by the amount it is spending on preparing for a second independence referendum, says Edinburgh-based Labour peer George Foulkes.

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The former Lothian MSP claims the Scottish Government is acting "illegally” by spending money in policy areas which are reserved to Westminster, most importantly the constitution, and he wants the the UK Government to act.

Writing in the Scottish Mail on Sunday, he said: “The SNP and Scottish Green Government has committed £24 million of UK taxpayers’ money and mobilised 20 civil servants to carry out a party political campaign and are concentrating on preparing for a referendum for which they have no mandate.

"The nettle must be grasped, and it must be grasped soon, or the offences will multiply.”

He listed four possible options for action, saying he was not advocating any particular one but insisting "they all must be looked at".

He said: "The UK Government could cut the Scottish Government budget by the amount spent wrongly. However, there is no guarantee it would not just result in further cuts by the SNP in devolved areas to keep their pet projects.

"Ministers and civil servants responsible for the illegal expenditure could be considered for suspension or discipline. This has been done in cases of local government spending which was ‘ultra vires’ but it may be difficult to identify the culprits.

George Foulkes says the UK Government should consider options including cutting funding and disciplinary action.

"The UK Government could consider whether it might be possible to use the courts to stop illegal expenditure through legal action. Finally, they could amend the Scotland Act to clarify the position, as has been done elsewhere.

“I accept that none of these are easy options but if no action is taken Nicola Sturgeon will continue to thumb her nose at the UK Government and is likely to be emboldened to go even further.”

Lord Foulkes also raised the Scottish Government’s spending on preparations for a second independence referendum in the House of Lords last week, calling for the Prime Minister and the head of the civil service to “get the Scottish Government to stop this illegality and start spending the money that they get from British taxpayers on the services for which they are now responsible”.

In reply, junior Scotland Office minister Lord Offord said: “The UK Government are firmly of the view that the Scottish Government should focus on the matters that Scottish people want them to deal with, which is how to make their lives better, and not fuss with another, pretend referendum.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has named October 19 next year as the date when she wants to hold the second independence referendum. Her request for a Section 30 order, transferring the necessary powers to the Scottish Parliament has been refused by Boris Johnson. Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain QC has referred a prospective Bill on a fresh referendum to the UK Supreme Court before to ascertain if it is within the powers of Holyrood and arguments are due to be heard in October.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “People in Scotland have voted for a parliament with a clear majority in favour of independence and with a mandate for an independence referendum. As set out by the First Minister, the people of Scotland will have their say on Scotland’s future.”

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