A memo sent out by the Department of Work and Pensions to Scottish civil servants has sparked controversy that it may have been actively encouraging staff to vote ‘no’ in the Scottish referendum, The Scotsman reports.
The memo to Scottish-based staff sent out by senior civil servant Robert Devereux appears to point out that employees have an obligation to standby the union as part of their role as UK civil servants.
Devereux described it as being both “legitimate and necessary” for civil servants to show “support” for the UK government’s own objective to maintain the current union.
It said: “It is important that, as civil servants, we understand why the Scottish independence referendum is different from elections such as a UK general election or a European election.
“This is because the UK Government has a clear position to maintain the union and so it is legitimate and necessary for UK civil servants to support the Government in this objective.”
However a spokesman for the DWP says the memo was not intended to affect staff decisions on how to vote in the Scottish referendum and was sent out only to remind employees of the role of a civil servant.
“Of course the department has not told its staff, or anyone else, how to vote,” he said.
“It was an open letter to all DWP staff setting out Scottish referendum guidance and the role of the civil service.
“Similar advice has been issued by the Scottish Government.”
The memo has been described by the senior civil servants union FDA and Public and Commercial Services Union as “ill-judged.”