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Press Scottish Government Public Sector

Scottish tax payers foot £20 million bill for 500 public sector press officers and spin doctors


By Gillian West, Social media manager

December 31, 2012 | 3 min read

Public sector spin doctors are costing Scottish taxpayers some £20 million per year, with an estimated 500 PRs working for public bodies across Scotland.

According to reports in The Times the ratio of PRs to journalists in the US has gone from 1:1 in 1980 to 4:1 in 2010 with Scotland and the UK heading in the same direction.

An investigation, carried out by the Scottish Sun and mainly based on Freedom of Information requests to all public bodies, discovered that at least 175 bodies were hiring press officers despite spending in other areas being slashed or "under review".

The Scottish Government has racked up a bill of £2.5 million this year on PR, closely followed by business quango Scottish Enterprise which has forked out nearly £1 million tackling crises and remaining "on message".

An estimated £17 million is spent on the 500 press officers employed directly by the likes of the police, NHS, civil service, and quangos.

A further £2 million was also spent by 66 authorities last year hiring PR consultants from the private sector.

Speaking of the findings Scottish Labour's shadow finance secretary Ken Macintosh said the figure shows how the SNP is "obsessed with control" and its public image.

Adding that many suspect the "chief purpose" of these posts is "to protect the Scottish Government’s reputation, not address the needs of the Scottish people."

The most expensive PR operation was found to be Scottish Enterprise with a bill of £282,000 for eight press officers, and a further expense of £714,000 on media consultants.

VisitScotland was the second most expensive body with a bill of £585,000 - most of which is spent on PR abroad encouraging tourism.

The seven-strong PR team at Glasgow Commonwealth Games is said to be costing around £330,000 a year, with boss Gordon Arthur taking home more than £100,000 per year.

Scotland's 11 police forces spend £1 million on press officers in the last year, with Lothian and Borders footing the biggest spin bill with a cost of £222,000 for six PRs.

Glasgow City Council was the highest spending local authority with a bill of £424,000. Scotland's health boards and central departments spent £2.4 million on press officers, with NHS Lanarkshire spending £311,000 on its five PRs.

Universities and colleges PR spend topped £2.5 million, with Edinburgh Uni's nine press officers costing £307,000. Glasgow Uni have five press officers at a cost of £225,000 and St Andrews spent £175,000 of three PRs.

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