Officials admitted blunders in a £8million funding announcement ahead of the council elections
The Scottish Government’s permanent secretary Leslie Evans ruled the cash boost for Glasgow just 48 hours before the SNP replaced Labour as the largest party on the city council did not break election rules.
But damning documents about the “cash-for-votes row” revealed that civil servants and Ms Sturgeon’s official spokesman privately admitted it had been the “wrong call.”
Senior officials also called it “an error of judgement”, only for Ms Evans to omit their concerns in a letter to a Conservative MSP dismissing an official complaint.
The Scottish Government yesterday conceded there had been a “lapse in the internal handling” of the deal but insisted there was no breach of “purdah”’ rules.
Conservatives said the documents, released under freedom of information laws, pointed to a cover up and called on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to launch an investigation in the “murky affair.”
Leslie Evans (centre) ruled the cash boost for Glasgow just 48 hours before the SNP won Glasgow
Officials admitted they made ‘the wrong call’, and then the SNP government tried to cover it up
MSP Ross Thomson
MSP Ross Thomson, who made the complaint, said: “Now we know the truth – officials admitted they made ‘the wrong call’, and then the SNP government tried to cover it up.
“This whole affair stinks – and it has shone a light on the SNP’s culture of secrecy, denial and evasion.
“Nicola Sturgeon cannot wash her hands of this any longer. She must act.”
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Scottish Labour’s James Kelly also demanded a probe adding: “This is a damning revelation, and demands an urgent response from Nicola Sturgeon.
“She cannot bury her head in the sand any longer.”
Strict rules bar the use of public money to influence the outcome of a poll.
Guidance for civil servants issued in January stated that “particular care” should be taken in the weeks preceding elections, noting: “It needs to be borne in mind that the activities of the Scottish Government could have a bearing on the local election campaigns.”
Civil servants and Ms Sturgeon’s official spokesman privately admitted it had been the ‘wrong call’
But on May 2 SNP Housing Minister Kevin Stewart unveiled £8.35million worth of investment to refurbish a landmark city centre building.
The Nationalists went onto to win the city after generations of Labour rule.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As the Permanent Secretary has already made clear, following an inquiry into the funding announcement, there is no evidence to suggest any breach of pre-election guidance.
“Our election guidance states that where there is any doubt about the application of the guidance, the matter should be referred to senior staff for consideration.
“No such upward referral took place on this occasion, which was an error of judgement. This was a lapse in the internal handling but not a breach of the rules.”