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Bill for spin doctors hits £10m

GOVERNMENT spin doctors have now cost taxpayers almost £10million since the creation of the Scottish Parliament 14 years ago, figures show.

Statistics released under Freedom Of Information laws show the total cost of special advisers - known as 'spads' - has almost trebled from the days of Donald Dewar's first devolved administration in 1999.

Mr Dewar employed seven spads - at a cost of £398,062 during his short tenure of office. The current wage bill for Alex Salmond's tally of 13 stands at almost £1million a year.

Questions are now being asked over why costs for the army of temporary civil servants have soared 132% during the tenure of four First Ministers.

Eben Wilson, director at TaxpayerScotland, a group that campaigns for lower taxes, accused the Scottish Government of "trying to do too much" and called for the number of advisers to be culled.

He said: "Special and political advisers are always a response to Government and political failure; a desperate attempt to put things right.

"Much of the central planning being attempted by our mostly socialist Government is simply not achievable. They need to pull back, limit what they do, tax us less and allow private individuals find ways of providing many of the services they purport to offer efficiently but too often waste our money on."

The figures show the Scottish Government - formerly the Scottish Executive - has paid out £9,606,275 on special advisers since May 1999.

After Mr Dewar, Henry McLeish upped the number of advisers to 10 at a cost of £560,843 during his year as First Minister in 2000/2001.

Jack McConnell reduced the number to eight in his first year in office yet the wage bill, which includes National Insurance payments and pension contributions, soared to £676,895.

It continued to rise throughout his duration at Bute House, peaking at £987,368 with 12 aides during his last year as First Minister in 2006/2007.

Alex Salmond hired a new team of nine advisers - many of them from the SNP communications and media team - when he won the election in May 2007, at a cost of £541,510 to the public purse.

However, the wage bill has risen steadily to the current total of £925,105 for a record 13 advisers.

Among them is Geoff Aberdein, the First Minister's chief of staff, and Noel Dolan, a dedicated spin doctor for the Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Under the Scotland Act, the Scottish Government was initially restricted to hire only 12 spin doctors but the cap was lifted in 2010 following changes at Westminster.

While they are regarded as civil servants they are not bound by strict civil service rules designed to ensure political impartiality.

Officials at the Scottish Government defended the spend and stressed it was a "real terms decrease of £60,653" in six years, from the final days of the previous administration.

Paul Martin MSP, Scottish Labour's business manager, said: "It's a sad state of affairs that the First Minister thinks promoting his profile is a better use of public money than improving services for Scots."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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