HUMZA Yousaf is under fire for using 27 civil servants to help him launch a controversial paper on independence.

Opposition parties said the entourage was also an outrage.

The First Minister, independence minister Jamie Hepburn and deputy FM Shona Robison launched the fourth instalment in the Building a New Scotland series on June 19.

Dealing with a potential written constitution for Scotland, the paper was presented to the media at the Scottish Government offices at Atlantic Quay in Glasgow.

Despite working on home turf, the Government deployed more staff than journalists. 

A newly answered freedom of information request reveals 27 staff were part of the event.

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They included one member of the First Minister’s private office, four members of the First Minister’s Visits and Events Team, six special advisers, eight communication staff including photographers and audio-visual support, and eight described as “other”.

The FoI response said: “The role of all civil servants in attendance at the event... was to support the Scottish Government in the launch of its publication, Creating a modern constitution for an independent Scotland.”

The Herald:

It said there was no record of the number of staff hours expended on the launch.

Of the 66 journalists invited, 18 attended.

The independence papers have become controversial as they involve public expenditure on topics which by definition are outside the powers of the Scottish Parliament.

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.

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

New guidance is being prepared for Scottish Government officials on the matter which should help them decide what is acceptable in a hotly disputed area.

Civil servants working in Scotland are part of the UK-wide civil service, and must follow its rules, but also have a responsibility to deliver the Scottish Government’s policies.

Mr Yousaf and his ministers insist that they have a mandate from voters to pursue independence based on the SNP manifesto for 2021.

However any mandate only covers this parliament, and as there is no realistic prospect of a referendum in this parliament, the work on independence is being questioned.

The Prime Minister recently backed Mr Case’s review of the guidelines.

Labour peer Lord George Foulkes has called the independence papers, which began under Nicola Sturgeon in June last year, “deliberately provocative”.

He has called for publication to be suspended pending the new guidance being issued.

He said of the 27-strong entourage: “I am not surprised, but it is a further outrage.

“I have been raising this use of public money for party political purposes for some time and Simon Case, [Scottish Secretary] Alister Jack and even now Rishi Sunak have made statements supporting this but so far no action.

“It is time now to take the gloves off and stop this abuse.”

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Scottish Tory constitution spokesman Alexander Stewart MSP said: “This is a disgraceful misuse of public money and resources.

"Civil servants should be supporting government work, not being asked to push the nationalists obsession with independence at every turn.

“There is simply no justification for Humza Yousaf having over two dozen civil servants as part of his entourage to help launch his latest independence paper.

“It is another prime example of the SNP blurring the lines between party and government and this waste of taxpayers’ money and civil servants’ time and resources must stop.”

Liberal Democrat MSP Willie Rennie said: "What an utter waste of taxpayers' money.

"Turning up mob-handed to the launch of a report that wasn't worth the paper it was written on perfectly encapsulates how the SNP have lost touch with the priorities of the average person.

"One in seven Scots are on a waiting list. This is time and money that could have been spent on tackling real problems."

Mr Yousaf was last month accused of “entitlement and self-indulgence” after charging taxpayers for a £700-a-night hotel on his first trip to London as First Minister.

The accommodation costs were more than double that of the Scottish Government’s top law officer when she stayed in the capital later the same week.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The Scottish Government was elected with a clear mandate to provide the people of Scotland with the information they need to make an informed choice about their future.

"It is the role of the Civil Service to support the elected government of the day in developing and implementing its policies.

"This paper was launched in a Scottish Government building and those in attendance were there to support the launch in the course of their usual duties.”