Scottish Government civil servants accused of making 'SNP propaganda' anti-Brexit film

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Scottish Government civil servants have been accused of making a propaganda film against Brexit - PA
Scottish Government civil servants have been accused of making a propaganda film against Brexit - PA

Scottish Government civil servants have been accused of peddling "SNP propaganda" after creating a taxpayer-funded film attacking the Brexit trade deal and demanding another separation referendum.

The film, which was promoted on the Scottish Government's official social media accounts, made a series of anti-Brexit claims and concluded that the UK-EU trade agreement was a "bad deal for Scotland."

Its narrator said the deal will cause “greater risk to national security” and argued: “We believe Scotland has the right to choose a better future as an independent country.

Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said the film was "shameless propaganda" funded by the public purse and ignored the positive reception the deal received from Scottish business leaders.

He disclosed he had complained to Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary and head of the UK civil service. He also wrote to Leslie Evans, the Scottish Government's permanent secretary.

In particular, he highlighted a section of the civil service code that said officials must not “act in a way that is determined by party political considerations, or use official resources for party political purposes".

The film was also attacked as "utterly outrageous" by Christine Jardine, the Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West and an ardent Remain supporter.

She tweeted: "I actually wanted to stay in the EU but this is going too far! The Government SHOULD speak for all of us NOT just the SNP!"

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Civil servants are entitled to help ministers deliver the latter's political agenda but must not cross the line into party political campaigning.

When Boris Johnson signed the deal on Christmas Eve, his official UK Prime Minister account on Twitter hailed it as “great news for British families and businesses”.

The row erupted as the Scottish Government published an analysis of the Brexit deal that claimed it would erect trade barriers and hit "jobs and living standards hard."

It said the nine-page document "underlines why the Scottish Government believes the best future for Scotland is as an independent country within the EU."

However, it failed to mention that this would mean the same trade barriers it criticised would then be erected between Scotland and the rest of the UK, which accounts for around 60 per cent of Scottish trade.

On Twitter, the video, which bears the Scottish Government’s official logo, is accompanied by the message: “Scotland didn’t vote to leave the EU, but we will work hard to mitigate the worst effects of #Brexit. Here’s what it means for Scotland.”

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Mr Ross said: “This video is a work of shameless propaganda and it’s incredible that a politically neutral civil service would think it is in any way appropriate.

“For taxpayers to be bankrolling a work of one-sided Nationalist distortion is not on. The government is supposed to represent everyone in Scotland."

Highlighting business support for the deal, he added: "This video tries to take us all for fools, especially the one million plus Scots who voted to leave the EU."

Unveiling the analysis, Mike Russell, the SNP Constitution Secretary, said the loss of previous freedoms and new bureaucracy and barriers to trade involved meant it would have an impact on services, fisheries,  participation in EU programmes, security, freedom of movement and the environment.

He said: "Our position is clearer than ever – Scotland now has the right to choose its own future, as an independent country and seek to regain the benefits of EU membership.

“This analysis demonstrates the substantial benefits that we would regain by becoming an independent member state in our own right.” 

Of Mr Ross's complaint, a Scottish Government spokesman said: “We have received the letter and will respond in due course.”  

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