Number of Scottish Government press officers soars almost 50% in four years

The number of Scottish Government press officers has increased by almost 50 per cent in the past four years, documents show.

A Freedom of Information request published on the Scottish Government website shows 54.9 full time equivalent (FTE) positions were occupied in 2020/21.

The figure is up from 38.6 in 2016/17.

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The Scottish Government has not yet published the total budget for its media operation for the past financial year, but statistics from the past decade show an ever increasing budget that expands alongside the number of media staff.

Numbers of media officers working for the Scottish Government have soared in recent years. Picture: PA

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In 2006/07, the last year of the Labour-Lib Dem coalition in Scotland, the cost of communications staff was £1.83 million.

The figures rose almost every year under the SNP administration – including a spike of more than £400,000 between 2012/13 and 2013/14 – before reaching just over £2.8m in 2020/21.

In recent years, the Scottish Government said, more responsibility has been shifted to Scotland, including the creation of benefits body Social Security Scotland, and dealing with the UK’s exit from the EU.

In the past year, communications efforts have also been ramped up as a result of the pandemic, with an emphasis on sharing key public health messages with Scots, as well as holding almost daily briefings from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman told The Times: “Effective communication is an essential role of government.

“Communications activity is needed to explain policy decisions and provide information to the public about the government and its services.

“We are operating a wider range of responsibilities than ever before, dealing with key priorities such as the response to the pandemic, EU exit work and change projects including the development of Social Security Scotland, while continuing to protect public services and deliver value for money.”

Labour MSP Neil Bibby said: “It seems that spinning for ministers and digging them out of holes is the one SNP job creation plan that is actually working.

“What the people of Scotland need is ministers that are focused on delivering for them, not an army of spin doctors.”

Scottish Tory chief whip Stephen Kerr said: “If the increased costs had resulted in the public receiving more information from the SNP government, maybe it could be justified. But the opposite has happened.”

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