The Scottish Conservatives have accused the SNP Government of being ‘mired in sleaze’ after Rural Economy Secretary Fergus Ewing made an announcement on spending for crofters despite being told it could breach purdah rules.
Purdah rules are designed to prevent Ministers from making spending announcements which could be seen to influence voters, particularly in local areas.
A newly-published chain of e-mails show civil servants advised Mr Ewing not to announce he would spend £1 million on helping crofters to build or improve homes because it was ‘particularly relevant to a couple of council areas and could therefore be argued to potentially have a bearing on the local election campaign’.
Scottish Conservative MSP for the North East, Ross Thomson, said: “The evidence is in. It is now clear Nicola Sturgeon’s Government indulged in a systematic breaking of the rules prior to last month’s local elections.
“This is a growing scandal which requires an urgent investigation. Mr Ewing was told by civil servants not to make this announcement but ignored them in an attempt to win a few headlines ahead of the local elections.
“Nicola Sturgeon must end her silence over this affair. After ten years in power, her Government is now mired in sleaze.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said announcing the grants was an example of ‘routine business’ which Ministers continued to be responsible for during the local election period.
He added: “Officials concluded the announcement could proceed on the grounds that the overall funding package had already been announced in March, the grants were being given to individual crofters and there was no local government involvement in the funding.”