Minister refuses to reveal details of “anti-independence” Treasury post

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  By a Newsnet reporter

Details behind a pro-Union post advertised by the UK Treasury are being kept secret despite questions from an SNP MP.

SNP MP Mike Weir has asked UK Treasury Minister Danny Alexander a series of questions relating to staff costs and who will foot the bill for the £50,600 a year anti-independence fixed term role, but has received a two sentence reply.

The Scottish based post, advertised by the UK government department, will see the successful applicant paid £50,600 of public cash in order to promote what it claims are the “benefits” of the Union.

According to the job specification, the successful applicant will help produce: “analytical work on the benefits of the UK, in the run up to the proposed referendum on Scottish independence.”

The post holder will work closely with London officials, UK Ministers and members of the London controlled Scotland Office in order to help the UK Government with its pro-Union message on the Scottish economy.

The role will become redundant in December 2014, immediately after the independence referendum.

The Scotland Office itself costs the Scottish taxpayer around £7 million per year, which is paid out of the Scottish block grant.  The costs to the Scottish taxpayer for temporary office staff for the organisation almost doubled under the last Labour Government.

In response to twelve parliamentary questions posed by Mr Weir, which included questions on costs and location related to the new temporary role, the Lib Dem Minister Danny Alexander gave a short answer in which he admitted the post had been created in order promote the Union in the run-up to the referendum.

However Mr Alexander refused to expand on the cost implications and who would foot the bill.

He said: “The Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement role has been created to support UK Government Ministers in their objective of maintaining the UK, in the run up to the proposed referendum on Scottish independence.

“The post is being filled through a standard Treasury recruitment process for which normal civil service recruitment rules and subsequent terms and conditions apply.  Further detail on HM Treasury recruitment process can be found on the Department’s website.”

However Mr Weir described his answer as “an evasive two sentence response”.

The post – Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement – has already attracted criticism when, after the job description was published, the Treasury stipulated that it was NOT looking for a candidate that who can think professionally, manage resources, achieve results or appreciate people.

Commenting, SNP MP Mike Weir – who tabled the questions – said:

“Danny Alexander’s evasion of legitimate questions over how taxpayer’s money is being spent underlines the arrogance of the Tory/Lib Dem UK government.

“It raises the obvious question of what Westminster has to hide?

“While ignoring calls by the Scottish Government to bring forward capital investment and boost employment, the only job the Treasury is creating in Scotland is that of an anti-independence spin-doctor.

“The disastrous policies of the Tory/Lib Dem Treasury are a perfect illustration of exactly why Scotland needs to secure job-creating powers with independence.”

Mr Weir’s parliamentary questions are detailed below:

Mr Weir: To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer:
(1) where his Department’s office in Scotland is to be located; and at what cost; [120305]

(2) whether the Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement role was created to fill competence gaps at the Scotland Office; [120273]

(3) whether any share of the salary for the Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement will be met by the Scotland Office; [120274]

(4) what pension accompanies the post of Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement; [120275]

(5) how many staff are employed in his Department’s devolved countries unit; and what their responsibilities are; [120287]

(6) how many applications were received for the post of Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement from (a)internal and (b) external applicants; [120288]

(7) which (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) officials were involved in devising the role of Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement; [120289]

(8) which (a) Ministers, (b) special advisers and (c) officials were involved in the selection and interview process for the role of Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement; [120290]

(9) whether the work of the Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement will involve engagement with the Better Together Campaign; [120304]

(10) how many staff will be employed to support the Head of Scotland analysis and Stakeholder Engagement; [120306]

(11) how many staff employed within his Department’s (a) Executive Management Board, (b) Ministerial and Communications Team, (c) Strategy, Planning and Budget Team, (d) Corporate Centre, (e) Treasury Legal Advisers Team, (f) International and EU Team, (g) Financial Stability Team, (h) Economics Team, (i) Financial Services, (j) Financial Regulation and Market Team,(k) Fiscal Team, (l) Business and International Tax Section, (m) Personal Tax, Welfare and Pensions Team, (n) Public Spending, (o) Enterprise and Growth Section, (p) Financial Management and Reporting Team and (q) Public Services Section are based at locations in Scotland; [120335]

(12) whether the post of Head of Scotland Analysis and Stakeholder Engagement is a politically neutral role. [120411]