Nicola Sturgeon's special advisers accused of 'pumping out blatant propaganda'
The First Minister has been urged to act by the Scottish Conservatives after the party submitted a dossier of evidence they claim shows seven special advisers breaking the rules set out in the code of conduct.
Among the tweets highlighted in the submission include strong political statements on favouring staying in the European Union, criticising UK Government policy, a wish to rid Scotland of "the Tories”, and one tweet labelling the Scottish Conservatives “far right”.
The new dossier comes after Douglas Ross' party accused Ms Sturgeon’s chief of staff Liz Lloyd of having “more than 100” alleged breaches of the civil service code of conduct following a tweet where she was critical of Boris Johnson’s visit to Scotland in January – a post she later deleted.
Among those accused of breaching the code include Ross Ingebrigtsen, the First Minister’s deputy political spokesperson, Colin McAllister, who advises Ms Sturgeon on policy and First Minister’s Questions, Mairi McAllan, a special adviser on environment, and Kate Higgins, a special adviser on the rural economy.
Special advisers are hired by the First Minister to work with the government, with their salaries paid for by the taxpayer.
The special advisers code of conduct states: “Special advisers must not take public part in political controversy, through any form of statement whether in speeches or letters to the press, or in books, social media, articles or leaflets.
"They must observe discretion and express comment with moderation, avoiding personal attacks, and would not normally speak in public for a minister, or the Scottish Government.
"It is also the First Minister’s responsibility to ensure that their special adviser(s) adhere to this code of conduct.”
Scottish Conservative chief whip Miles Briggs said he was told to take up the issue of the breaches with the First Minister, but was yet to receive an official response.
Labelling the breaches “incredible”, he labelled the new evidence an indication of a “culture of contempt” amongst Ms Sturgeon’s closest advisers.
He said: "When the First Minister’s chief of staff was exposed for flagrantly breaking civil service rules it was shocking.
"But it is clearly not a case of a single rogue special adviser who thinks they can flout the rules.
"We now see seven others in Sturgeon's inner circle who are all on the civil service public payroll yet pump out blatant SNP propaganda.
"I had already raised concerns about Liz Lloyd with the Permanent Secretary Leslie Evans, who has responded by telling me it is a matter for the First Minister.
"I have not yet had a reply from Sturgeon and will now write to her again. Does she not know what her inner circle are doing?
"This culture of contempt at the heart of the SNP Government is an affront to the vital rules of civil service neutrality. Our civil service can't become an extension of the nationalist's propaganda unit."
A Scottish Government spokesperson said Ms Sturgeon would reply to the letter.
The spokesperson said: “Paragraph 12 of the code of conduct makes very clear that special advisers ‘are able to represent ministers’ views with a degree of political commitment that would not be possible for other civil servants’.”
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