Lamont brands SNP’s £85k adverts cost a ‘scandal’

JOHANN Lamont condemned the Scottish Government’s use of almost £85,000 of taxpayers’ cash to pay for billboard adverts promoting independence as a “complete scandal” at Scottish Labour’s conference yesterday.

The Nationalists white paper on independence. Picture: Robert Perry

Labour said documents released under freedom of information laws showed the government paid out £84,160.80 for billboard adverts across the country over the period from 2-15 December – just after First Minister Alex Salmond launched the white paper on independence.

The billboards carried slogans from the white paper – the Nationalists’ blueprint for leaving the UK – such as “Scotland’s future in Your Hands” and talked about a “comprehensive guide to independence and what it means for you”.

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Ms Lamont said Nationalist ministers had a “relaxed view of what public spending is for” as she used a question and answer session at Labour’s conference in Perth to criticise the use of taxpayers’ cash to campaign for independence.

Labour claimed the £85,000 spent over the two week period on billboards was the equivalent of £6,000 public money a day. Nearly £30,000 of the cash was used to pay for billboards in Glasgow with the rest spent in other parts of the country, the figures obtained by Labour showed. The cross-party Yes Scotland campaign was reported to have reserved up to £2.5 million-worth of outdoor advertising space in a planned marketing blitz this spring.

However, the Scottish government claimed that the billboards had been used to provide public information about the referendum campaign and help inform voters about the white paper.

A government spokeswoman said: “There is a clear precedent for such a public information campaign in the 1997 devolution referendum. The Scottish Government has always said that it would set out its proposition for independence to inform voters ahead of the referendum.

“Scotland’s Future is the most comprehensive and detailed blueprint of its kind ever published, not just for Scotland, but for any prospective independent country.”