Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has claimed that the SNP’s spin operation and the Scottish government civil service are now indistinguishable.
Mr Rennie has made his claim after the Scottish government sent a news release containing party political polling data to the media. The press release was sent by the First Minister’s top spin doctor, Kevin Pringle, who as a civil servant is paid by the Scottish public.
This release to the media came before it was announced late last week that Mr Pringle would leave the civil service to take up a senior role within the SNP.
Concerns over the politicisation of the civil service under the SNP have increased in the last year after independence workshops for civil servants were introduced; ‘purdah’ rules were broken during the local elections; and Sir Peter Housden’s partisan internal communications.
Commenting, Mr Rennie said:
“If this news release had been sent by Kevin Pringle in his new role then I would dismiss it as the SNP’s continuing obsession with polls rather than policy. But releasing party political polling data to the media under the Scottish government banner is unprecedented and has very serious implications.
“It is increasingly clear that the SNP’s spin machine and the operations of the civil service are now one in the same.
“The civil service is rightly proud of its traditional impartiality and I know many who work for the government are dismayed by what is happening to this great institution under the SNP.
“I have written letter after letter to Sir Peter Housden to get him to step in and put an end to the creeping politicisation of the civil service. It is clear from this news release that nothing has been done.
“The SNP aren’t even attempting to hide it anymore. The use of party political polling data in this government news release is such a blatant breach of impartiality that it is clear the SNP are confident they can get away with it.
“Now more than ever we need a government and a civil service that is focussed on what is best for Scotland, not what is best for the SNP.”
News release from the Scottish Government copied below:
From: Kevin.Pringle@scotland.gsi.gov.uk [mailto:Kevin.Pringle@scotland.gsi.gov.uk]
Sent: 31 August 2012 12:48
Subject: NEW PARLIAMENT SESSION – SUNDAY MEDIA
EMBARGO: Sunday 2 September 2012, 00.01am
As the Scottish Government prepare for the new session of Parliament, Ministers pointed out that the SNP administration has even higher popularity ratings now than at the time of last year’s election, and will be publishing a programme for government on Tuesday which reflects the ambitions and priorities of the people of Scotland.
The legislative programme will contain 15 Bills covering all areas of Scotland’s life – including the Referendum Bill to be introduced in early 2013.
A “spokesperson for Cabinet Secretary for Parliamentary Business and Government Strategy Bruce Crawford” said:
“The latest opinion survey shows that the SNP Government have even higher popularity ratings now than in last year’s election landslide. We have led the policy and political agenda over the summer, and will continue to do so when Parliament returns on Tuesday – with a programme for government which reflects the ambitions and priorities of the people, and reflects all areas of Scotland’s national life.
“The Social Attitudes Survey found that over 71 per cent of people trust the Scottish Government to act in Scotland’s best interests, up from 61 per cent in 2010 – and compared to just 18 per cent who trust the UK Government.
“In the areas where the Scottish Parliament already has responsibility, we are delivering for Scotland – with 1,000 extra police officers, the Council Tax freeze, a record number of Modern Apprenticeships, and the best performance anywhere in the UK for securing inward investment jobs. We are extremely confident that we will win the trust of the people for the positive case that Scotland can be well governed in all areas, by achieving the powers of independence in the autumn 2014 referendum.”
1. The Panelbase poll for the Sunday Times and Real Radio Scotland surveyed 1,012 adults in Scotland between 11-17 July 2012. Party support breakdowns are as follows (with changes from the May 2011 election in brackets):
SNP: 47% (+2%)
Labour: 32% (n/c)
Tory: 12% (-2%)
LibDem: 6% (-2%)
2. The 2011 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey – published in June 2012 – found that over 71 per cent of people trust the Scottish Government to act in Scotland’s best interests, up from 61 per cent in 2010. This compared to just 18 per cent who trust the UK Government.