Michael Gove has been accused of a “gross misuse of public money” after it emerged Covid cash had been funnelled into Union polling.
SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford called on Boris Johnson to launch a public inquiry after it emerged the Cabinet Office had instructed officials to use an emergency Covid contract to conduct political research.
The shocking new revelations, published in The Herald, show that during the height of the pandemic Mr Gove instructed civil servants to commission polls on “attitudes to the UK Union” using the emergency contract given to Public First for pandemic research.
Mr Blackford, speaking in the Commons, said: “This morning, it was revealed – that in the middle of a pandemic – Tory ministers secretly directed funds from an emergency Covid contract to carry out polling on the Union.
“This evidence was uncovered in official documents submitted to the High Court – so the prime minister would be well advised to be very careful in his answer to this question.
“Did the UK government use a £560,000 emergency Covid contract to conduct constitutional campaigning on the union?”
Mr Johnson said he was “not aware” of the contract.
Mr Blackford responded: “Whether it’s redecorating the Downing Street flat or siphoning off Covid funds for political campaigning – the pattern is clear. The Tories simply can’t be trusted.
“Let’s be very clear what happened here, these emergency Covid contracts were supposed to be used for things like PPE, for our brave doctors and nurses fighting Covid.
“Instead, during the height of this deadly pandemic, Mr Gove used these emergency contracts to commission political research on – and I quote – “attitudes to the UK Union”.
“What’s worse, he handed these lucrative contracts to long-time friends and former employees.
“In essence – this was a UK government contract that sanctioned corrupt campaigning.
“If the prime minister has even a shred of credibility, will he now commit to a full public inquiry on this gross misuse of public money?”
Mr Johnson responded: “I can’t think a better use of public funds than making sure that the whole of the UK fights the Covid pandemic together.”
“I believe that story of this last two years has shown the incalcuable value of our Union and the strength of our Union and that we are better together”, he added.