A row has broken out between the SNP and the Scotland Office after claims about spending on parties and social events by the department.
Scotland Office Minister David Mundell was forced to defend the cost of hospitality after an SNP MP suggested that the department was “partying on the public purse”.
Deidre Brock MP claimed that spending on hospitality has increased by seven times in a year.
Ferret Fact Service looked at this claim and found it to be False.
The Scotland Office is the UK Government’s department for Scottish affairs, responsible for liaising between the Scottish and UK governments as well as managing certain reserved powers in Scotland.
Since devolution, the Scotland Office’s role has been greatly reduced as the majority of administration is organised and controlled by the Scottish Parliament.
The claim that the department had significantly increased spending came from two parliamentary questions from the SNP’s Deidre Brock, MP for Edinburgh North and Leith.
The first question asked for an estimate on the cost of hospitality since May 2015, which was revealed as £8,987 in 2015/16 and £453.35 in 2016/17.
This difference was explained as events and hospitality spending being split from 2016 and recorded separately.
A second parliamentary question on 14 December, with reference to the first, asked what the “events spend of his [David Mundell’s] Department was in 2016-17”
The answer, published on December 19, was: “The total Scotland Office spend on events in 2016/17 amounts to £61,188.38.”
The SNP’s claim of a seven-fold increase in spending on “hospitality” came from the difference between the 2015/16 figure of £8,987 and last year’s two figures combined, which make a total of £61,641.73.
However, the Scotland Office provided FFS with figures that show the SNP are not comparing accurately.
The original parliamentary answer referred to hospitality spending which is not analogous to events and refers to expenses such as food and drink.
The second answer on December 19 gave the overall events spending for the year 2016/17. The previous year’s events spending was £58,078.95.
This amounts to an increase of five percent rather than the 585 per cent increase as claimed by the SNP.
A spokesperson for the Scotland Office said: “Claims that there have been a sevenfold increase in hospitality spend are utter nonsense.
“The £61,000 figure being bandied around as hospitality is actually spend on events and stakeholder engagement.”
“Events the UK Government has supported include the Royal Highland Show to meet with food and farming sectors and business roundtable meetings.”
The UK Government were unable to provide FFS with further breakdowns of department spending.
Ferret Fact Service verdict: False
The SNP’s claim of a seven-fold increase in spending is not based on accurate assessment of the figures. Deirdre Brock’s comment has conflated hospitality and events costs, but these are different figures relating to different types of spending. The overall figure for events spending has increased around five per cent in the last year, rather than 585 per cent as the SNP suggested.
Ferret Fact Service (FFS) is a non-partisan fact checker, working to the International Fact-Checking Network fact-checkers’ code of principles. All the sources used in our checks are publicly available and the FFS fact-checking methodology can be viewed here. Want to suggest a fact check? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or join our community forum.
In response to an FFS request for evidence, the SNP provided both parliamentary questions asked by Deirdre Brock MP and the answers.
Photo thanks to Foreign and Commonwealth Office, CC BY-SA 2.0