Great Britain

Really, Nicola? SNP blunder as £700k spent on ‘political propaganda’ thank-you letters

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The letters, sent to all Scottish households thank Scots for adhering to Scotland’s coronavirus restrictions, which were introduced last March. But critics of the Scottish First Minister branded the move as being “close to political campaigning” at a cost to the taxpayer.

In the letters, seen by, Ms Sturgeon wrote: “Thank you for sticking with it, Scotland.”

She further goes on to say: “Recent weeks have been difficult, and while there is hope on the horizon with the rollout of the vaccine to our elderly and most vulnerable, we all need to continue to stick to the rules and play our part in tackling coronavirus in our communities.”

She warned the first weeks of January had “presented us all with challenges as we look to reduce the spread of coronavirus.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “The introduction of a new strain which spreads more easily has required us all to take further steps to prevent the virus taking hold in Scotland.

“I will never be able to thank you, your family and your loved ones, enough for what you have sacrificed to help Scotland through this pandemic so far.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon is facing a backlash because of the spending (Image: Getty)

Nicola Sturgeon NHS

The SNP leader is taking a more cautious approach to easing lockdown. (Image: Getty)

“I know it’s hard, but taking these difficult steps is our main weapon against the virus – to protect our lives, our health and our jobs – until the vaccine for coronavirus becomes more widely available."

Jackie Baillie MSP, interim leader of Scottish Labour, said the letters should have been signed by scientists rather than herself.

She told this website: “Polling shows that people have considerably more trust in the NHS as a source of information on COVID-19 than they do in the Scottish and UK Governments.

“Of course it is vital that the public is kept informed of Scotland's efforts to tackle COVID-19, but it seems both opportunistic and irresponsible for the First Minister to be signing taxpayer-funded letters to every household in Scotland just four months before the Scottish Parliament elections.

“If the intention is to maximise compliance with the COVID-19 restrictions and stop the spread of the virus, surely it would be more appropriate for this letter to have been signed by medical chiefs rather than by a politician?"

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Nicola Sturgeon leaflets.

The leaflets were sent out earlier this month (Image: Handout )

Duncan Simpson, Research Director at the Taxpayers Alliance, told “Using taxpayers' cash for what looks like propaganda is not on.

"Providing advice from medical professionals during a pandemic is obviously appropriate, but puff pieces from ministers is not.

“This is especially true in light of the Scottish government's continued daily television briefings.

"Nicola Sturgeon should keep her ego in check and stop taking Scottish taxpayers for a ride."

A Scottish Conservative spokesman added: “We welcome more information for people about NHS services but this accompanying letter, from Nicola Sturgeon directly, appears to stray close to political campaigning using public money when an election is only a few months away.”

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Jackie Baillie.

Jackie Baillie MSP slated the spending (Image: Getty)

It comes shortly after this publication revealed more than £500,000 on COVID-19 awareness leaflets almost two months after lockdown began last year.

At the same time, the Scottish Conservatives have called on the SNP led Scottish Government to make the Covid pandemic and Scotland’s economic recovery the focus of Thursday’s Scottish Budget. 

Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes will set out Scotland’s budget this week claiming it will help Scotland to "recover and renew" from the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the Scottish Conservatives will formally call for the SNP to ditch their plans to publish a draft independence referendum bill ahead of the election. 

The majority of independence campaigning costs will be borne by the SNP party however some referendum bill costs are understood to be borne by the Scottish Government.

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Leader Douglas Ross said: “The SNP Government must use this Budget to put our economic recovery before their dangerous obsession with another divisive referendum.

"The First Minister's refusal to rule out a wildcat vote is grossly negligent and inflammatory.

“It would be reckless and irresponsible of the SNP to try and force through a referendum as early as this year when all our focus should be on fighting the pandemic and rebuilding Scotland.

“The Scottish Conservatives will demand the Budget should prioritise support for jobs and increased funding for our under-strain NHS and local services.

“This must be a Budget in the national interest, not the nationalist interest. Making indyref2 the priority is a huge distraction from the massive challenges at hand.”

In response, a Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Regionalising the letter would have increased the costs and there are no pre-election restrictions currently in place.

“The door drop to every household in Scotland sets out how the vaccine programme will progress and emphasises that health services are still in place to support people when needed for non-COVID reasons as part of the Right Care Right Place campaign.

“The letter from the First Minister thanked people for abiding by the restrictions in place, recognising how difficult it has been for everyone and how important it is in preventing the spread of the virus and avoiding the health service becoming overwhelmed.”

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