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Households across Scotland started receiving the coronavirus leaflets in mid May, despite lockdown beginning on March 23rd. Officials say the leaflets provide a wide variety of support and help to guide people through the pandemic as well as reinforce the changes that the Scottish Government is asking people to make to their lives.
But it was pointed out that large amounts of information have already been given out on the news as well as through television adverts, government briefings, newspaper adverts, the internet and emails.
Figures seen by Express.co.uk show that Nicola Sturgeon’s administration spent £513,467 printing and distributing the leaflet to every household, a cost of 20p per home.
One surprised Scot, who raised the issue, said: “I have just received my mail today and in it was an envelope from The Scottish Government.
“Whilst I commend you [The Government] for sending out the letter and leaflet, I feel that after five weeks of the lockdown where there has been information given out on the news, television adverts, government briefings, newspaper adverts, internet and emails, could the cash spent on producing these letters/leaflets not be better spent on more urgent requirements to help those in separate need at this time?”
MSP Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman, told Express.co.uk: “The coronavirus pandemic is the greatest public health emergency in living memory.
“It is only right that the Scottish Government uses funds to promote and disseminate important public health warnings but spending so much on leaflets, after the radio and television campaigns had begun, seems an ill-advised use of public funds.
“With the economy in a crisis of unparalleled magnitude and the NHS and Local Authorities under increasing strain it is imperative that the Scottish Government is both tactical and prudent with its finances.
“In this event it seems that the SNP government has frittered away public money on unessential leaflets long after the horse had bolted.”
Jeremy Hutton, Policy Analyst at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, added: “If the Scottish government couldn’t deliver these leaflets on time when they might have made a difference, they shouldn’t have produced them at all.
“This reeks of too many bureaucratic busy bodies getting involved and eventually closing the door after the horse has bolted.
“As soon as it became clear these leaflets would arrive too late to be of use, the Scottish government should have halted the project and redirected the funds towards front line services.
“This money could have, for example, purchased hundreds of thousands of items of much-needed PPE for medical and care staff.”
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The spending comes after Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes begged Boris Johnson to give Holyrood extra tax powers in light of the economic chaos caused by the pandemic, amid fears they could face financial uncertainty.
She warned there was a £500million hole between the extra cost of the COVID-19 pandemic and the funding given to Scotland from Westminster.
A Scottish Government spokesperson, said in response: “When asked to make personal sacrifices it was only right and absolutely essential that this vital public health information was disseminated as widely as possible in order to save lives and that as lockdown progressed different means of communication were used to ensure continued awareness.
“Our leaflet campaign provided an enhanced level of information that cannot be covered in a TV advert or news report and was essential for getting information to people who do not access to the internet including how people could access the National Assistance.”
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