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Government denies Tory allegations independence preparations are being carried out ‘in secret’

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The Scottish Tories have accused the government of carrying out “secret preparations” for a second independence referendum.

Documents obtained under freedom of information legislation by the party detail correspondence between First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, deputy John Swinney and finance secretary Derek Mackay and the permanent secretary Leslie Evans.

The memo discusses the impact of pushing for a second independence vote on the Scottish Government’s day-to-day operations and outlines the need for the civil service to begin preparing for the outcome of the referendum, including “transitional planning for moving to an independent Scotland”.

The civil service would work on a second referendum and Brexit “in tandem”, according to the released notes.

Interim Tory leader Jackson Carlaw said the briefings showed the impact a second “divisive” referendum would have on schools and hospitals.

The SNP said the Tories were in a “panic” and the Scottish Government had been entirely open about preparing for a referendum.

Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw said: “The SNP tried to keep this document under wraps and it’s clear why.

“It shows that delivering Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum on independence won’t just divide our country all over again, it will push your school, your local hospital and your high street to the back of the queue.

“Instead of focusing on delivery, Sturgeon’s Nationalist government will be focused on division. And instead of sorting out Scotland’s schools, a referendum would see taxpayer-funded civil servants working on the ‘transition’ to independence.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said the documents revealed the “devastating” impact of a second independence referendum on public services.

“Another referendum would be a huge distraction for the civil service, meaning services such as schools and hospitals would be neglected,” she said.

“That’s why barely a quarter of people in Scotland support another contest before 2021 as threatened by Nicola Sturgeon.”

A spokesperson for constitutional relations secretary Michael Russell: “The only thing revealed here is the state of utter panic the Scottish Tories have been reduced to in their opposition to the independence referendum that they know is coming and which they know they are losing the argument on.

“We have been entirely open about the fact we are preparing for a referendum, and this material shows how, regardless of that, it is Brexit which is impacting on day to day work in other areas.

“For the Tories – whose bosses at Westminster have been reduced to a zombie government with no legislative programme at all – their comments are borderline delusional.”

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