Conservative ministers were rapped on the knuckles by the High Court in England for an “unlawful” contract worth £560,000 awarded to research agency Public First due to its founders having links with Dominic Cummings and Michael Gove
Court documents showed Mr Gove used the contract to examine attitudes towards the union, sparking fury from independence supporters and the SNP.
In contrast, the Scottish Government did not undertake any polling around any issue covering the union, devolution, Scottish independence, or a second independence referendum, a freedom of information request confirmed.
The Scottish Government had been asked whether any polling or market research had been commissioned by officials on constitutional issues since March 2020, with officials stating none had been undertaken.
Nicola Sturgeon’s officials instead undertook weekly polling on the levels of public trust in her administration and the perceived performance of the Scottish Government compared with the UK Government in handling the pandemic.
The research, undertaken by YouGov, also covered public opinion on Covid restrictions, measures in place and being planned by the Scottish Government, and whether the public backed potential future changes.
Referencing the UK Government polling on the union, SNP MP, Stewart Hosie, had accused Mr Gove of using taxpayers’ cash as a “bottomless Unionist slush fund” during Cabinet Office questions in the House of Commons on Thursday morning.
Responding, Mr Gove said such a fund “sounds like a great thing, but unfortunately it does not exist”, adding that he was not found to have acted in a biased manner.
The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster also called on the SNP MP to demand the Scottish Government publishes accounts for “every single penny” received during the Covid-19 pandemic and how it was spent, prior to demanding more transparency from the UK Government.
He said: “The contract was not awarded by me and it is not the case that I was found to have acted with any actual or apparent bias, because I did not award the contract.
“I recommend that he has a close look at what Lady Justice O’Farrell actually concluded."
Speaking after the debate, Mr Hosie said: “There was a clear misuse of public money and emergency COVID contracts here, therefore it is time for Mr Gove to come clean and be held to account for his actions, and for a full public inquiry to be conducted.
“It is shameful that so much public money has been handed to Tory friends and donors throughout this pandemic – but now we know that some of that money was spent on Tory constitutional campaigning.
“As a result, there must now be full transparency on what taxpayers’ money has been spent on and, more importantly, why this was ever allowed to happen.”
Responding, a Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “Any suggestion that the government carries out party-political research or polling is entirely false.
"We regularly undertake research to support policy development and this work related to the impact of COVID-19 in areas across the UK.”
The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.