Anne Widdecombe discusses Sturgeon's referendum 'U-turn'

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According to official data, Scottish taxpayers have forked out £45,776 on photographers for the Scottish Government since April 2015, months after Ms Sturgeon succeeded Alex Salmond. From April 2015 to April 2020, the Scottish Government has spent £762.93 a month on photography.

Following a parliamentary question from the Scottish Conservatives, official data on spending was released.

The figures show Scottish Government spending on “photography service providers” came to £15,741 between April 2015 and March 2016.

In the following financial year of 2016/2017, the bill dropped to £5,955, then just £1,000 in 2017/18.

Costs rose to £6,430 in 2018/19, before hitting a whopping £16,650 in 2019/20.

Holyrood elections were contested in 2016 and 2021, both of which the SNP won.

Tories said Ms Sturgeon must answer for the clear splurges ahead of the 2016 and 2021 elections.

Scottish Conservative chief whip Stephen Kerr told the Scottish Express: “Taxpayers will be intrigued to know why there is a dramatic spike in Scottish Government spending on photographers around election time.

“Perhaps the First Minister could explain how this ‘coincidence’ has arisen?

“It’s unacceptable that public money is being squandered on glossy pre-election photo-ops for ministers, when that money ought to come out of SNP coffers.”

Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie also criticised the expenditure amid a string of government policy failures.

He said: “These figures show a Scottish Government who are much better at expensive photo calls than they are at delivering for the people of Scotland.

“Unfortunately, once the cameras go away, ministers are far less committed to making projects a success, as workers at BiFab, Ferguson Marine and the Lochaber smelter have all found to their cost.”

“Scotland needs a government committed to getting our economy growing again, not vanity photo shoots.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We use photography to support a wide range of public information, communications and engagement with the people of Scotland about the work and responsibilities of the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Government takes very seriously the requirement to maintain the impartiality of the Civil Service and ensure official resources are used appropriately during election periods, as set out in pre-election guidance.”

The Scottish Government also came under fire for spending millions on ferrying ministers around in private cars.

Figures revealed close £7million had been spent on the Scottish Government car service which gives the First Minister’s cabinet a fleet of 41 chauffeur-driven cars at their disposal.

Since Ms Sturgeon came to power, the number of cars has almost doubled from 24 in the 2010/11 financial year to 41 in 2020/21.

Scottish Labour Finance spokesperson Daniel Johnson said of the car costs: “These eye-watering sums raise serious questions.

“During every single budget the SNP plead poverty as they cut Councils to the bone – but they are sparing no expense for themselves.

“Some transport costs are inevitable, but there is no justification for this level of waste. The SNP cannot keep frittering away millions of pounds of public money on private cars.”

The Scottish Government said the size of the fleet changed in the 2021/22 financial year as cars are procured and disposed of with 28 vehicles now in the fleet.

A spokesperson added: “The Government Car Service provides a secure environment to conduct sensitive Government business while travelling to and from Ministerial engagements when public transport is not viable.

“We continually look for ways to ensure the Government Car Service is delivered in the most cost-effective manner, offering the best deal to the taxpayer.”

“As part of our commitment to decarbonise our fleet we have increased investment in fully electric and ultra-low emitting electric vehicles, which now make up 63 percent of the overall current fleet and 100 per cent of the current Government Car Service fleet.

“We are committed to phasing out petrol and diesel cars from the public sector fleet by 2025 and replacing fossil-fuelled vehicles with plug-in or fully electric vehicles where appropriate.”

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