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Business group considers legal bid over Scottish Government independence spending

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A business group is seeking to take legal action against the Scottish Government over its spending of public money on the case for independence.

Scottish Business UK (SBUK), which describes itself as an independent, non-party voice for business leaders who support the Union, accused Nicola Sturgeon and SNP ministers of “behaving like a South American banana republic”.

It believes using public money on the case for independence may be beyond the legal power or authority of Scottish ministers. It follows the Supreme Court ruling that the Scottish Parliament does not have the power to legislate for another vote.

However, some legal experts have poured cold water on such claims. Aileen McHarg, a professor of public law at Durham University, tweeted: “It only requires a moment’s thought to know that it’s a ludicrous position to adopt.”

The Supreme Court ruled Holyrood does not have the power to legislate for an independence referendum.

SBUK has reportedly received initial advice indicating the case is arguable but that the details will need to be examined further.

Robert Kilgour, chairman of SBUK, told the Daily Mail: “Nicola Sturgeon is using public taxpayers’ money and civil servants for party purposes. We’re seeking legal advice on the options in front of us. Enough is enough.

“I waited to see what her and the SNP response is and it seems to be ‘full steam ahead’ on spending public money and using civil servants on what is, from the Supreme Court ruling, quite clearly party campaigning activity, not something that is within their remit as an elected government to do.

“It is absolutely scandalous that they are doing this. It is arrogance beyond belief and is a complete insult to Scottish taxpayers.”

He added: “They are treating Scottish taxpayers’ funds like their own piggy bank and they are behaving like a South American banana republic.”

Following the Supreme Court ruling, Ms Sturgeon faced calls to reallocate the £20 million earmarked for a second independence referendum next year.

A spokesman for the First Minister previously said: “Obviously [the £20m] was in the Budget not for this financial year, but for next financial year. [Deputy First Minister] John Swinney will take forward the Budget process for next year across all portfolios and update Parliament in the middle of next month.”

Around two dozen civil servants are working on Ms Sturgeon’s updated prospectus for independence. Three papers have already been published.

A Scottish Government spokesman highlighted the majority support in the Scottish parliament for a referendum, adding that it “will continue to set out, through the Building a New Scotland prospectus series, what could be done with the full powers of independence”.

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