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FOIs shed light on ‘paralysed’ independence planning at Holyrood

ALEX Salmond has said Scottish Government preparations for independence are “paralysed on the starting blocks” after two Freedom of Information (FOI) responses shed some light on the work carried out so far.

The Government responses to the FOI requests indicate that no budget has been allocated, no estimates made of cost, and no briefings given to civil servants on how to move forward on a new white paper for independence. 

This comes despite Nicola Sturgeon having said in early September that government work on a case for independence would begin “now”.

Salmond said this showed the “worst fears” of independence supporters had been confirmed.

READ MORE: The question isn’t why should Scotland be independent, but why shouldn’t it?

On September 7 the new Programme for Government (PFG) was released, and Nicola Sturgeon told the Holyrood chamber that the democratic mandate for a second referendum on independence was “beyond question”.

She said the Scottish people would be given a choice of futures, going on: “Crucially, we will ensure that the choice, when it comes, is a fully informed one. To that end, I can confirm that the Scottish Government will now restart work on the detailed prospectus that will guide the decision.”

One Freedom of Information (FOI) request asked the Scottish Government to disclose “any briefing materials that have been or plan to be provided to officials and civil service staff members who will be working on the ‘detailed prospectus’” mentioned by the First Minister.

The answer to that FOI request makes clear that no such briefing materials exist.

The response included a line which said that, if asked about the timing of publication of the prospectus, a government spokesperson should reply: “We plan to have the detailed prospectus ready in good time to enable the people of Scotland to make an informed choice about their future.”

A separate FOI request, the response to which was also published this week, asked if a budget had been “allocated for the preparation of a white paper on a future independence referendum and cost of a referendum”.

In its response, the Scottish Government said that “a budget has not been allocated”.

Furthermore, no estimates of costs or of the number of civil servants required for the task have been produced.

The Scottish Government said it is “determining how the activity announced in the PFG will proceed”.

The National: EDINBURGH, SCOTLAND - APRIL 12: Former First Minister and leader of the Alba Party Alex Salmond campaigns on Calton Hill on April 12, 2021 in Edinburgh, Scotland. The former First Minister and SNP has formed the Alba Party to contest seats in the

Commenting on the revelations, Alba party leader Alex Salmond (above) said the independence movement was “paralysed on the starting blocks”.

The former First Minister told The National: “These FOI answers confirm the worst fears of all genuine independence campaigners.

“One month after Nicola Sturgeon claimed she was firing the starting gun on independence preparations, the civil service is stuck, paralysed on the starting blocks.

“No budget has been allocated, no briefing papers have been prepared. Instead of Indy activity we have inglorious inactivity.”

READ MORE: SNP MP stunned as new minister ‘doesn’t know the basics’ about Scotland

Salmond went on: “No wonder Westminster feels emboldened enough to betray Scotland this week on carbon capture. They must rate the current political threat from Holyrood as near zero.

“Back in 2011 we were arguably ahead of the people, pushing forward to a referendum when independence was still but a minority pursuit. Now the Scottish Government is miles behind the people. The body politic is willing but the Government’s spirit is weak.

“Alba does not believe that Scotland has time on our side. Every day the independence campaign is delayed damages the people of Scotland.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “As the Programme for Government states, our intention is to hold a referendum within the first half of this parliamentary session, if the coronavirus crisis has passed.

“We have committed to publishing a detailed prospectus for an independent Scotland ready in good time before the referendum to enable people to make an informed choice about their future, and are now considering how we will progress this work.”

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