Scottish Daily Mail

SNP has more press officers than BBC’s got reporters!

- By John Abiona

THE SNP Government is spending record sums on spin doctors and employs more press officers than BBC Scotland has journalist­s, it has emerged.

The cost of employing people to control the government message was £2.8million last year.

That figure could be even higher when the latest figures are published in the next few months.

The Scottish Government disclosed that 54.9 full-time equivalent (FTE) positions were occupied in 2020-21. The figure was a marked increase from 38.6 in 2016-17.

In contrast BBC Scotland, despite being a publicly funded broadcaste­r, has only 34 reporters.

Scottish Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr said: ‘The SNP’s spend on spin has skyrockete­d in recent years.

‘If the increased costs had resulted in the public receiving more informatio­n, maybe it could be justified.’

But he added: ‘The opposite has happened. Every expansion of their communicat­ions department seems to increase the lack of transparen­cy coming from this Government.’

In 2006-07, the final year of the Labour-Lib Dem coalition in Scotland, the cost of communicat­ions staff was £1.83million.

The figures rose almost every year under the SNP administra­tion, with more than £2million being spent on press officers between 2013-14.

It reached just more than £2.8million in 2019-20.

Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: ‘It seems that spinning for ministers and digging them out of holes is the one SNP job creation plan that is actually working.

‘What the people of Scotland need is ministers focused on delivering for them, not an army of spin doctors.

‘It’s time that the SNP spends more time focusing on substance, not spin.’

The Scottish Government has said that the reason for the expansion has been because it has taken on more responsibi­lity, including the creation of benefits body Social Security Scotland, and dealing with the UK’s exit from the EU.

It claims the pandemic has forced it to ramp up its communicat­ions strategy in the past year. As of March 2021, the Scottish Government directly employed 7,488 staff, an increase of 4,964 FTE positions in the past nine years.

As well as an army of press officers, Nicola Sturgeon’s 14 political advisers cost Scottish taxpayers more than £1million in 2019 – with one paid up to £104,000.

Official figures show Miss Sturgeon’s team of 14 special advisers (Spads) were paid a total of £1,105,289 in 2018-19 – up from £1,045,486 in 2016-17.

One of the advisers earns between £86,965 and £104,462, classed as a ‘premium’ pay band. Five Spads take home between £65,017 and £86,964, while six earn £52,905 to £65,016. Two others have a salary of between £39,445 and £52,904.

The average wage in Scotland is £26,000.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Effective communicat­ion is an essential role of government. Communicat­ions activity is needed to explain policy decisions and provide informatio­n to the public about the Government and its services.

‘We are operating a wider range of responsibi­lities than ever before, dealing with key priorities such as the response to the pandemic.’

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