THE SNP has questioned the amount of taxpayers cash being used to prop up the Scotland Office, after new figures showed the department’s staffing bill stood at £4.6 million.

In response to a Freedom of Information request, the department revealed its total staff costs in the financial year 2016-17 amounted to £4,619,337.

A UK Government spokesman said the spend was necessary given the role of the department in representing Scotland’s interests. But the SNP said the cost could no longer be justified.

Aberdeen North MP Kirsty Blackman said: “Other than hiding in the shadows of the Tory Government, what do David Mundell and his near-£5m worth of spin doctors and mandarins ever actually achieve for Scotland?

“After first failing to ask for a single extra penny for Scotland as Westminster handed over £1 billion to the DUP, and then failing to stand against the power grab in the EU Repeal Bill, David Mundell is but an apologist-in-chief for the Tory Government. The expense of this ineffective department – which is no more than a costly spin campaign for the Union – can no longer be justified at a time when Scotland’s budget is being slashed by the austerity-obsessed Tories in Westminster.”

A UK Government spokesman said the wage bill was paying for “skilled and capable” people to “deliver for Scotland”.

He said: “The Scotland Office ensures that Scottish interests are fully and effectively represented at the heart of UK Government and the UK Government’s responsibilities are fully and effectively represented in Scotland. That has included ensuring the successful passage of the Scotland Act, which brings more powers than ever to Scotland, making the Scottish Parliament one of the most powerful devolved parliaments in the world.

“It is right that we are resourced with skilled and capable people who will help us face the challenges and opportunities ahead as we make sure we get the best possible deal for Scotland and the whole of the UK as we leave the European Union.

“Our priority is ensuring that the UK Government delivers for Scotland.”

Yesterday’s Sunday Herald reported that spending on spin doctors had risen six-fold since the Tories took power at Westminster seven years ago.

The Mundell-controlled UK Government department spent £686,166.29 of taxpayers’ money in 2016/17 on spin doctors, more than half-a-million pounds up on 2010/11.

The SNP also pointed out that taxpayers will have to cough up another £70,000 after the Tories made MEP Ian Duncan a Lord and appointed him as the junior minister in the Scotland Office, rather than choosing one of the 12 Scottish Tory MPs in the Commons elected last month. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described Duncan’s appointment as an outrage.

She said: “Isn’t it absolutely outrageous that we have a candidate defeated at the ballot box, fairly and squarely and then a matter of days later, the wishes of the people of Perth and North Perthshire are completely disregarded, and this failed candidate is put into the House of Lords and installed as a minister in the Scotland Office?”

Sturgeon said the move showed the “contempt the Tories have for democracy”.