Scotland politics

SNP questions Scotland Office budget rise

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An SNP MP has questioned why the UK government's Scotland Office has seen its budget increase by 20% over the past five years.

Margaret Ferrier said the increase came at the same time as a real-terms cut in the Scottish government budget.

And she claimed the devolution of new powers to Holyrood meant the Scotland Office was now a "zombie department".

The UK government said it was right that the department was resourced for the challenges of the year ahead.

A spokeswoman said: "This year the Scotland Office has ensured the successful passage of the Scotland Act, making the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved governments in the world.

"It is right we are resourced for the challenges in 2017 as we continue to deliver the remaining powers as well as making sure we get the best deal for Scotland and the whole of the UK as we leave the EU."

Figures show the Scotland Office real terms budget, excluding non-voted election expenditure, has increased for three out of five years since 2012/13.

Image caption Margaret Ferrier described the Scotland Office as a "zombie department"

The 2016/17 budget is an 0.4% reduction, and it fell by 2.8% in 2013/14.

But the remaining increases, including a 14.4% increase in 2015/16, have led to a 19.9% cumulative increase since 2012/13.

At the same time, the SNP said the real terms Scottish government budget - excluding council tax benefit, landfill tax, stamp duty land tax, Scottish rate of income tax and the £800m capital budget increase pledged by the UK government in the 2016 Autumn Statement - had led to a cumulative 1.9% decrease over the five years.

Earlier this year it emerged Scotland Office communications expenditure more than doubled since 2011/12 to £426,223.

'Spin doctors'

Ms Ferrier said the Scotland Office has long been a "zombie department with next to no responsibilities".

She added: "With more powers transferring to the Scottish government, as (Scottish Secretary) David Mundell so enjoys telling us, it would be interesting to hear his explanation for why his department requires such an enormous increase in its budget.

"We know that the budget for Mundell's army of spin doctors and publicity campaigns to promote the benefits of the union to the people of Scotland has more than doubled.

"Perhaps he needs the extra help in trying to devise a believable reason for why he has U-turned on the single market and why he believes the people of Scotland should suffer Brexit despite not voting for it."