The cost of operating the Scottish Government's communication team has come in for criticism from across the political spectrum, according to reports in the weekend's press.
Said The Herald, yesterday: ”There are now 46 communications officers, costing £2.4 million, listed at various grades at the Scottish Government’s headquarters at St Andrew’s House in Edinburgh.”
And added the Scottish Daily Mail: “The figures show that, as of July 4 this year, a full-time equivalent of 41.2 ‘specialist communication officers worked on Scottish government media relations’. The office is led by head of news, Andrew Baird.
“The wage bill was £2.14 million in the first year of SNP rule, rising to £2.2 million in 2008-09, and reaching £2.35 million last year.
“In 2006-07, the last year of the Labour/LibDem administration, the wage bill was £2.09 million. By 2009-10, it had risen 12.36 per cent, suggesting an average press officer earns a staggering £57,000 a year.”
Labour peer and Lothians MSP George Foulkes was quoted in The Herald, as saying: “The swelling cost of spin doctors under Alex Salmond’s watch is a blatant attempt to manipulate the media.
“In the current climate, he should concentrate on protecting frontline services instead of spending more and more public cash each year to protect his image.”
Meanwhile, Tory spokesman Derek Brownlee was quoted as saying: “Instead of driving up the wages of spin, the SNP Government should be driving down costs to help Scotland get to grips with the dire consequences of Labour’s debt legacy.”
However, a Scottish Government spokesman was quoted by The Herald defending the number of press officers and their salaries: “In real terms, the figure for 2009-10 is actually £85,000 less than the cost in 2004-5.”