Scotland politics

Scottish independence: DWP 'clarifies' referendum advice to staff

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Image caption The DWP employs about 10,000 civil servants in Scotland

The Department of Work of Pensions (DWP) has amended a controversial memo which some civil servants believed was encouraging them to vote against Scottish independence.

Guidance sent to staff on Tuesday said it was "legitimate and necessary" for civil servants to support the UK government's position.

The DWP said it had now clarified that this only applied at work.

Unions had described the original memo as "poorly written" and "patronising".

The guidance from Robert Devereux, the permanent secretary at the Whitehall department, had read: "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."

'Ill-judged'

A spokesman for the DWP said the second paragraph had been amended and now read: "..is legitimate and necessary for UK civil servants to support the government in this policy objective at work."

It had denied telling its 10,000 civil servants in Scotland how to vote.

The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) had described the original memo as "poorly written, ill-judged and patronising".

Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond had called for the advice to be withdrawn and an apology issued over the memo.

He said: "It's deeply concerning. At the very least you would say it was loosely worded. If you were being really charitable you would say it was all a mistake.

"They should withdraw it immediately, they should clarify it. They are not to instruct the workers on how they should vote. That is something for a bygone age."

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