Sturgeon’s independence chief handed slot to promote book at taxpayer-funded event

Angus Robertson labels state of the union 'unfit for purpose'

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New Constitution Secretary Angus Robertson launched his £25 book Vienna – The International Capital earlier this month. The book explores the Austrian capitals international political importance over the centuries.

 

He was handed a main speaking slot at the Borders Book Festival which is funded by quango Creative Scotland to promote it.

In an advert for the £11 talk, Mr Robertson described Vienna as a “beautifully written, rich and extraordinary story”.

However, on Saturday night, the advert was quickly removed from the festival website after the talk was raised to Holyrood opposition parties.

Donald Cameron MSP, Scottish Tory Constitution spokesperson, added: “Angus Robertson should be focused on our recovery from the pandemic rather than promoting his own book.

“While everyone wishes the Borders Book Festival to be a major success, eyebrows will be raised over the fact that the Culture Secretary was given a slot at an event which was awarded a funding boost by an agency overseen by the Scottish Government just a few months ago.”

Joe McCauley, Scottish Lib Dem culture spokesman, said: “At the same time as the SNP takes a scythe to cultural centres in Glasgow, the Culture Secretary is trying to plug his book at a taxpayer-funded literary event.

“Sadly, anyone who can’t afford the £25 recommended retail price will be out of luck because his council colleagues want to close the libraries too.

“Scottish arts and culture ought to be for everyone.”

Sarah Boyack MSP, Scottish Labour culture spokeswoman, said: “It’s hard to believe patrons of the Borders Book Festival were ever banging down the door to hear from Angus about his book.”

On Saturday night, Creative Scotland said the Borders Book Festival received £30,000 in National Lottery funding through Creative Scotland’s Open Fund.

But a spokesperson stressed: “As is the case with all funding we provide, we do not seek to influence cultural organisations or festivals in their artistic programming.”

A spokesperson for Mr Robertson said he would no longer be appearing at the event.

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It comes after Michael Russell, President of the SNP slated Mr Robertson on Twitter for not focusing on his “day job” after promoting the book last month.

Mr Russell, himself a former Constitution Secretary until May, said in a now-deleted Tweet: “Hmm – might be a breach of MSP code too.

“And legitimate for people to ask what he is doing in the day job”.

The Scottish Government has said Mr Robertson “appropriately declared that he had written this book before he was appointed as a Scottish minister and there is no breach of the Ministerial Code.”

They added: “Any subsequent promotional activity will be in his own time and no Scottish Government resources will be used.”

The SNP stressed Mr Russell was trying to send Mr Robertson “examples of some of the baseless criticisms he had himself received in the past when publishing his own books, and tweeted one such example by mistake.”

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