The UK Government is to look at imposing “sanctions” on the Scottish Government for spending public money on areas beyond its powers such as independence.

Cabinet office minister Baroness Neville-Rolfe told the House of Lords she would consider the issue as part of revisions to the UK Government rulebook. 

She said changes to the Cabinet Manual would be required in relation to “the devolution settlements”.

The Manual, which guides officials and ministers on constitutional issues, was last published in 2011, and a new draft version is expected this autumn.

Last week, the head of the UK civil service, the cabinet secretary Simon Case, said it was “unusual and worrying” for officials to be working on the break up of the UK.

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He told the House of Lords’ Constitution Committee that new guidance would be issued within weeks to clarify whether civil servants should work on the issue.

SNP Westminster leader last week complained that any move to limit the work of officials north of the border on independence would be undemocratic.

The issue has taken on extra salience ahead of the Scottish Government publishing the fifth paper in its independence prospectus series, Building a New Scotland, on Thursday.

Further papers on Europe and defence, which are also reserved, are due later this year.

Labour peer Lord George Foulkes yesterday called for Thursday’s “deliberately provocative” paper to be ditched pending the new guidance from the Cabinet Office.

Today, in a Lords session on the new Cabinet Manual, Lord Foulkes raised the possibility of sanctions against the Scottish Government.

The Herald:

He said: “Since the last Cabinet Manual was considered, and also when the [1998] Scotland Act was passed through both houses of this Parliament, it was never envisaged that the Scottish Government would stray into reserved areas, as they are now doing.

“And therefore there are no sanctions for the UK Government to take in relation to that kind of action. 

“Would this be something that could be considered when this Cabinet Manual is being revised?”

Baroness Neville-Rolfe replied: “I will certainly take that point away.

“It's obviously a UK government document, signed off by UK ministers accountable to UK Parliament, but one of the revisions that will be needed will relate to the sort of changes in the devolution settlements. 

“I think there have been two Wales Bills and two Scotland Bills since the manual was last revised.”

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The UK Supreme Court last year ruled definitively that Holyrood did not have the power to hold an independence referendum without Westminster’s consent, as the Union is an area reserved to Westminster alone.

Despite Labour and the Tories both ruling out Indyref2, Humza Yousaf appointed his ally Jamie Hepburn as Scotland’s first dedicated Minister for Independence in March.

Around 20 officials are reported to be working on the Building a New Scotland series, with salary costs for the Constitutional Futures Division around £1.4million in 2022/23.