Fury over Treasury’s ‘pro-Union’ office for Scotland
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 30 July 2012
Treasury plans to open an Edinburgh office to promote ‘the benefits of the UK’ for the duration of the independence referendum campaign have provoked an angry response in Scotland.
The row erupted over the weekend, after a Treasury recruitment advertisement appeared for an Edinburgh-based ‘Head of Scotland analysis and stakeholder engagement’ on a salary of up to £50,601.
Interviews are scheduled for early August, and the appointment is for a fixed term to December 2014. The independence referendum is expected in autumn of 2014.
Although the Bank of England retains a Scottish agent to inform monetary policy, the Treasury traditionally has no office in Scotland. The advertisement makes clear that the purpose of the new post is to boost the pro-Union case for the referendum.
It sets the appointment in the context of a wider Whitehall programme, announced by the Scottish secretary in June, to generate ‘analytical work on the benefits of the UK, in the run-up to the proposed referendum on Scottish independence’. The Treasury is understood to already have a team in London working on this agenda.
‘As part of this, the Treasury is increasing its analysis of the Scottish economy and continuing to expand its relationships with key Scottish stakeholders,’ the advert says. ‘The postholder will act as the head of HM Treasury’s new office in Scotland, and the main interlocutor with Scottish stakeholders.’
Principal duties set out in the advertisement include a role ‘to produce discrete pieces of analysis and briefing for ministers, and support them in delivering core economic messages in Scotland’ and to ‘establish relationships for the Treasury with key figures in business, academia and civic society’.
Despite the reference to 'heading' the office, a Treasury spokeswoman said today that there were no current plans to recruit anyone beyond the post being advertised. Any decisions on further staff were for 'further down the line', she said.
The appointment provoked fury in Scotland, both from Taxpayer Scotland, the Scottish offshoot of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, which accused the UK government of deciding ‘to spend taxpayers’ money on self-serving exercises’ – and from the Scottish National Party.
SNP Treasury spokesman Stewart Hosie said: ‘The Treasury currently employ not a single person in Scotland. It is disgraceful that they should be spending yet more public money trying to stop the people of Scotland voting for independence.’