THE Scottish Government will continue to publish its series of white papers arguing the case for an independent Scotland despite the cut to indyref2 spending, it has been confirmed.
On Thursday, Deputy First Minister and interim Finance Secretary John Swinney announced the £20 million allocated for a referendum will instead be used to support vulnerable people against soaring bills.
In May this year, we told how Kate Forbes, currently on maternity leave, allocated the funds to the constitution brief under Angus Robertson during a multi-year resource spending review.
With the Supreme Court ruling in November dashing hopes of an October 2023 independence ballot, as the court ruled Holyrood does not have the legislative competence to legislate for a Referendum Bill as the constitution is a reserved matter to Westminster, opposition calls for the cash to be redistributed grew.
And in Thursday’s Budget Swinney confirmed the £20m will instead be spent on extending fuel poverty support.
However, the Sunday National can exclusively reveal that this cut will not delay the publication of future white papers from the Scottish Government with further documents expected in the “coming months”.
The government also confirmed for the first time that one of the independence blueprints will be focused on Scotland’s energy potential.
In a Freedom of Information (FOI) request lodged by the Sunday National, we asked the Scottish Government for the expected publication dates of further white papers, the number expected to be published and the topics they will cover.
The FOI response read: “Decisions on the timing and content of Building a New Scotland papers will be taken in due course. The Scottish Government has stated publicly that they will cover topics including pensions and social security, EU membership and trade, and defence and security. This is a formal notice under Section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.”
After the Sunday National asked for clarification, the Scottish Government confirmed that energy will be one of the key policy areas in the upcoming white papers.
In June, at the first press conference held by the First Minister in Bute House where she launched Independence In The Modern World: Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland?, the Sunday National asked if an energy white paper was in the works and if the benefits of an independent Scotland for women and minorities would form part of the prospectus.
The FM said she had noted topics she was most asked about, adding: “You know how important I consider issues of gender equality so of course these will be issues that we cover.”
The Scottish Government also revealed various statistics about how many times the papers have been accessed online and how many hard copies were produced.
However, while we were provided with emails between government officials, our request for invoices and estimates relating to costs for the white papers was denied, with the majority of the information heavily redacted.
While email exchanges between officials discussing estimates were provided, none of the accompanying attachments were included in the release.
Our request for details on the number of meetings held between government officials and ministers regarding the white papers was denied on cost grounds. The government did reveal that 200 printed copies were ordered of each of the three currently published independence documents, with some distributed to journalists at each press conference, some to government officials and 258 copies provided to members of the public.
The documents are also available online, and it has been confirmed that the first three papers have been viewed more than 203,500 times, with over 35,500 PDF downloads.
The Scottish Government claimed the figures may be higher due to the way the analytics tool used is set up to preserve the anonymity of users.
A Scottish Government spokesperson told the Sunday National: “In light of majority support within the Scottish Parliament for an independence referendum, Scottish Ministers remain ready to engage with the UK Government at any point on delivering a referendum.
“In line with its Programme for Government commitments, the Scottish Government will continue to publish its Building a New Scotland prospectus series.”
The first publication in the series was described as a “scene setter” by the FM, with the following documents focusing on renewing democracy and the economy.
The Scottish Government did not confirm the date or topic of the next white paper to be published.