Nicola Sturgeon says Michael Gove use of taxpayers' money for polling a 'scandal' after High Court 'unlawful' ruling
The First Minister has said Michael Gove’s use of public money meant for covid recovery for party campaigning is a ‘scandal’ after the High Court deemed his actions ‘unlawful.’
The enquiry call comes after the SNP claim that Michael Gove the new minister for the Union, ordered officials to use a £560,000 emergency covid contract – originally reserved to tackle the pandemic – to instead conduct political research for conservative constitutional campaigning into Scottish attitudes to the UK union.
Taking to Twitter, Nicola Sturgeon said: "Imagine the (justified) media/opposition outrage if @scotgov had used taxpayers’ money, meant for Covid, to do polling on independence - and ask yourself why this isn’t getting much more attention.
"It’s a scandal - well done to @Ianblackford_MP for raising”
Mr Gove in action was deemed “unlawful” by the High Court last month by giving the publicly funded money to market research firm Public First, according to court reports.
The High Court ruled that the use of the money “gave rise to an apparent bias” due to its links with former colleagues of Dominic Cummings and Mr Gove.
When Mr Blackford raised the issue at PMQs on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was ‘not aware’ of the contract itself.
The Prime Minister said: “I am not aware of the contract to which the honourable gentlemen refers to.
“But what I can say is that the Union and the benefits of the Union have been incalculable throughout the Covid pandemic.”
The Cabinet Office dispute the claim that the government carried out party-political research.
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 judgment in this case makes clear that there was no suggestion of actual bias and that the decision to award the contract was not due to any personal or professional connections.”