The Scottish First Minister’s spending has come under scrutiny again this week as the SNP is accused of wasting taxpayers money on railway services. Figures showed that Scotland is spending three times as much as England on keeping railway services running during Covid. Holyrood has paid almost £60 for every passenger journey since the pandemic struck compared with £22 south of the border, according to analysis by The Telegraph. The SNP’s spending within the party has also come under scrutiny as Conservative MSP Stephen Kerr tells Express.co.uk that Ms Sturgeon and co have over 50 spin doctors.
Mr Kerr said: “You’d be forgiven at times for thinking there was a government of one person, the cabinet is pretty weak, this isn’t a parliamentary party that is overflowing with talent.
“And yet she has this huge government, the biggest government in the history of devolved Scotland.
“She has 50 people alone doing her spin doctoring. There are more people working as spin doctors in the SNP government than there are journalists in Scotland.”
In July, the Times reported that there are 54.9 full-time equivalent (FTE) frontline media roles in the Scottish government, an increase of 42 percent compared with the 38.6 FTE jobs in 2016-17.
At the time, the BBC in Scotland was reported to have 34 reporters — 17 for general news and 17 specialist correspondents — meaning even the publicly funded broadcasters were equipped with fewer people asking questions than the government has to answer them.
At the same time, the Scottish government’s spending on its media operation increased to more than £2.8million in 2019-20, compared with £2.5million in 2016-17.
In August, the same newspaper reported that spin doctors and policy advisers working for the Scottish government are now costing the taxpayer more than £1million.
In his interview with Express.co.uk, Mr Kerr adds: “She’s built this massive, expensive government. Hugely expensive. And she uses it all shamelessly for her political own political purposes.
“We in the Scottish Conservative Party, in Holyrood and around the country, are absolutely avowed to oppose this government and hold them to account.”
Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman, Daniel Johnson, also reacted with anger to the £1million figure.
He said last month: “We see the number of spads [special advisers] and ministers piling up to the astonishing sum of more than £1 million, but there is no sign that we’re getting any value for money.
READ MORE: Sturgeon’s Green allies said monarchy would ‘hold Scotland back’
“Hiring more and more expensive advisers on the public purse is no substitute for political vision — something that the SNP sorely lacks.”
In July, the Scottish government defended its policy of hiring a large number of staff to aid the First Minister with media issues.
They said: “Effective communication is an essential role of government. Communications activity is needed to explain policy decisions and provide information to the public about the government and its services.
“We are operating a wider range of responsibilities than ever before, dealing with key priorities such as the response to the pandemic, EU exit work and change projects including the development of the Social Security Agency, while continuing to protect public services and deliver value for money.
“It is important that we communicate with the people of Scotland about this work.”
The SNP is looking to strengthen its case for independence, and has formed a pact with the Scottish Greens in an attempt to do so.
Nicola Sturgeon: Norway snubbed independence amid ‘UK loyalty’ [INSIGHT]
Sturgeon told Scotland can rejoin EU: ‘End dependence on UK’ [ANALYSIS]
Nicola Sturgeon’s independence plan backed in Ireland [INSIGHT]
The Scottish Greens are also pro-independence, and leadership from the party have been given ministerial roles in the SNP-led government.
But Mr Kerr doubts whether the alliance will last as the two parties have differences on environmental policy.
He said: “Sturgeon says it will last, but I’m not sure. I think she will use Patrick Harvie and the Greens for her own purposes.
“The Greens have been so craving, so obsessed with being the first Greens in government.
“So they will want to hang in there, but we’ve already seen last week a back of the envelope plan for Covid passports that Harvie had opposed in principle just days before he became a minister, he was now quite happy to vote for it.
“I would think the fundamental differences between the Greens and everyone else in Scottish politics would have caused a fracture, but I could be proved wrong.
“There are a lot of people in both of those parties who are very unhappy about this arrangement that they now feel has been hoisted upon them.”