THE Scottish and British governments were criticised yesterday by MPs probing whether civil servants remained impartial in the run-up to Scotland’s independence referendum.
The Commons public administration committee said that the Scottish government’s independence white paper had “raised questions about the use of public money for partisan purposes.”
Committee members also criticised the publication of advice that one of Britain’s most senior civil servants gave Chancellor George Osborne that a currency union between Britain and independent Scotland would have been “fraught with difficulty.”
The letter from Permanent Secretary to the Treasury Sir Nicholas Macpherson was only made public “because it suited ministers’ political objectives in respect of the Scottish referendum,” the committee said.
This had “compromised the perceived impartiality of one of the UK’s most senior civil servants.”
The committee recommended a revision of the Civil Service Code to provide “definitive guidance” on civil servants’ role in referendum campaigns.
Sir Nicholas told the committee it was “highly unusual” for his advice to be made public, but was in a bid to reassure the markets.