A TORY MSP has accused the SNP of “wokery and hypocrisy” after it was revealed it will cost £300,000 to return a “stolen” totem pole to Canada.

Thought to be the first transfer of its kind from a UK institution, the 37ft memorial totem is set to be returned home to the Nass Valley in British Columbia after almost a century in Scotland.

The Nisga’a Lisims Government (NLG) and National Museums Scotland (NMS) agreed last December for the transfer to go ahead.

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And now it has been revealed that the Scottish Government is set to pay the £300,000 bill despite NMS policy stating the cost of returning artefacts should be the responsibility of those who requested them.

The Herald on Sunday previously revealed that the Scottish Government nearly called off the transfer of the Ni'isjoohl Memorial Pole to the Nisga'a Nation after it was estimated it would cost £710,000 to do so, including creating a replica pole to keep on display in Edinburgh.

Culture Secretary Angus Robertson had suggested a replacement pole be carved by the Nisga’a to represent their “bond with Scotland”.

Freedom of Information (FOI) documents supplied to the newspaper show that museum bosses said they were unable to stump up the cash, with the Scottish Government eventually agreeing to pay for the costs. It reports that there was no suggestion that the Nisga'a Nation should pay for the transfer. 

The National: Stephen Kerr

Stephen Kerr (above), Scottish Tory MSP for Central Scotland region, claimed the funding row was “just the latest example of SNP wokery and hypocrisy”.

“Angus Robertson was quick to attempt to claim the credit for this decision,” he said.

“But now we learn that behind the scenes his government was desperately trying to weasel out of paying for it, despite promising to do so, and tried to leave the national museum high and dry.

“This all goes to show that the SNP cannot be trusted with taxpayers’ money.

“They made this decision with no idea how it would be paid for but then managed to find £300,000 when it became clear they faced a major embarrassment.

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“Anyone doing any kind of business with these slippery characters masquerading as Scottish ministers should get everything they say signed off in writing. No one can trust a word they say.”

The totem pole was acquired in 1929 by Canadian curator and ethnographer Marius Barbeau on behalf of the Royal Museum of Scotland, which later became the NMS, and went on display the following year.

But, NMS said that while the museum acted in good faith in its acquisition of the pole, it now understands that those who “sold” it to Barbeau did so without the cultural, spiritual, or political authority to do so on behalf of the Nisga’a Nation.

After months of preparatory work, a delegation of family members from the Nisga’a Lisims Government travelled to Edinburgh to oversee the start of the pole’s return.

The National:

On Monday August 28, a closed spiritual ceremony was held to prepare the pole for its journey home the following month.

At the time, Sim’oogit Ni’isjoohl (Chief Earl Stephens) said: “In Nisga’a culture, we believe that this pole is alive with the spirit of our ancestors.

“After nearly 100 years, we are finally able to bring our dear relative home to rest on Nisga’a lands.

“It means so much for us to have the Ni’isjoohl memorial pole returned to us, so that we can connect our family, nation and our future generations with our living history.”