Almost fifty thousand pounds of taxpayer’s cash has been spent by the Scotland Office in order to support UK Govt claims that Scottish trade with the UK is four times that of the EU.
A Freedom of Information [FOI] request has revealed that the UK Govt run department spent £47,395.65 on a social media campaign involving Facebook, Google and Twitter.
The campaign, funded by the Cabinet Office on behalf of the Conservative Government, included pay-per-click Google adverts which appeared above search results, and a video on Twitter, both highlighting official Scottish Government export statistics.
A FOI request by Discourse.scot revealed that, to date, £38,892.33 has been spent on Facebook, while Google and Twitter have cost taxpayers £4,483.36 and £4,019.96 respectively.
Defending the cost of the campaign, the Scotland Office said: “Research shows many people do not understand the importance of the trading relationship between Scotland and the rest of the UK – which is worth four times that of trade with the European Union, and supports four times as many Scottish jobs.
“This campaign addresses that, informing the public and encouraging Scottish businesses to take full advantage of our biggest, barrier-free market.
“The UK Government has a responsibility to ensure the public are equipped with the facts.”
Claims that Scotland has four times the trade with the UK than it does with the European Union has been a feature of pro-Union rhetoric since last June when Scots voted to remain a member of the EU. The EU referendum vote, which saw the rest of the UK vote to leave, re-ignited the debate over Scottish independence.
The revelation that the UK Government is spending tens of thousands of taxpayers’ cash undermining the importance of the European Union will concern many. Only days ago it emerged that the UK Govt spent an undisclosed sum commissioning research into the number of Scottish jobs reliant on UK trade.
Findings of the research, carried out by the Fraser of Allander Institute, were headlined by BBC Scotland.
The study claimed over half a million Scottish jobs were as a result of trade with the rest of the UK.
UK Govt claims that Scotland has four times the trade with the UK than it does with the EU have been challenged by opponents who have pointed out that much of the so-called ‘UK trade’ is actually goods that pass through English ports on their way to other international destinations. The opponents also point out that trade between Scotland and the rest of the UK is unlikely to cease regardless of the constitutional settlement and that jobs are created on both sides of the border.
Commenting on the Fraser of Allander study, Economy Secretary Keith Brown said: “Analysis also shows Scotland is the rest of the UK’s second largest export market, behind only the US, with exports worth over £50bn.
“It is quite simply nonsense to suggest that the rest of the UK would cease trading with Scottish firms if we were inside the single market but outside the UK.
“As we have consistently made clear, Scotland does not face a choice between exporting to the EU or the UK – we can, and should, do both.
“This is why we will continue to pursue a way forward which retains our place in Europe’s single market which is vital to protect economic stability, jobs and inward investment.”