THE SCOTTISH Government is being urged to reallocate the £20m set aside in next year’s budget for an independence referendum. 

Yesterday’s Supreme Court verdict means the First Minister’s ambition to hold a vote in October next year is dead. 

Back in June's Spending Review, the Scottish Government told MSPs that they were adding £20m to the Government’s constitution, culture and Europe portfolio to prepare for the vote.

At the time, Nicola Sturgeon described it as a “really good investment.”

In the wake of yesterday's verdict, the SNP leader confirmed that she would now fight the next general election - not expected until 2024 - as a de facto referendum. 

A briefing note sent to SNP politicians, seen by the Times, confirms that the Scottish Government “will continue to make the case for independence and for the Scottish people to have their say” and that they will produce more documents “published in the coming months.” 

It goes on to say that the papers to come "will cover matters including pensions and social security, EU membership, energy, and defence and security”.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said: “It was utterly shameful that Nicola Sturgeon and her government ever set aside this amount of money to pursue their number one obsession of breaking up the United Kingdom.

“Nicola Sturgeon responded to the Supreme Court verdict as SNP leader rather than as First Minister. Why should taxpayers be footing the bill for her party-political campaigning when she could not be bothered to answer questions in Parliament?

“With the unequivocal ruling, there will be no referendum next year. So there is absolutely no justification for them failing to reallocate every penny of their referendum fund."

The MSP said the money could "support families and businesses through the global cost-of-living crisis or help our NHS through a winter storm."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said the money should be used to combat long covid.

“This SNP/Green government are spending just £16 a head to help people who may find themselves out of work, utterly immobilised and gasping for air.

"That’s the price of a takeaway. No wonder people with long Covid feel abandoned.

"The Scottish Government have suddenly found themselves with £20m spare after their embarrassing Supreme Court defeat.

"That money should be used to deliver the comprehensive treatment and support that people with long Covid so desperately need."

Yesterday, when asked if taxpayers’ money would still be used to fight an independence campaign during a UK-wide election, the First Minister said: “The SNP’s election campaign is for the SNP.

"That’s always the case but of course, as I said, however realistic it may be in the short term, it’s still our view that the UK government’s position is not sustainable in the long term and we will continue to hope that we will see an agreed referendum and the Scottish Government will continue to prepare as we have been doing it for that, as of course we are elected with a clear mandate to do.”