DAVID Mundell has been put on the spot about the rising cost of the Scotland Office.

The Tory Scottish Secretary was in front of the cross-party Scottish Affairs Committee in the House of Commons yesterday when Edinburgh MP Deidre Brock asked him why spin doctor costs had jumped so much since devolution.

Figures obtained by the MP show the cost of media relations has risen from £108,439 in 2010, when Tories came to power, to £686,166 last year.

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She pointed out that the last Labour Scotland Office had a staff of five. Now, under Mundell, there were 71 employees, with the department’s salary bill approaching £9 million.

“How do you justify that increase when responsibility – your responsibilities specifically – have decreased?” Brock asked.

“I wouldn’t concede that responsibilities have decreased,” Mundell replied, saying the cost was down to the independence referendum. “Because of the constitutional debate we’ve enjoyed in Scotland, those responsibilities have been greater in the sense of my constitutional responsibilities, in terms of the last parliament, taking through the Scotland Bill – which is a very significant piece of legislation which was taken through, I think with great skill, by a relatively small department.”

He said the department had taken seriously the recommendation by the Smith Commission that people in Scotland should have more information to help them “understand the roles of both of their governments”.

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Brock also queried social media advertising costs for last year, which hovered around a few hundred pounds most months then rose to nearly £12,000 in March. She asked the minister to explain that rise “just before the election”.

Mundell replied: “I hope it’s not a shock but I wasn’t aware there was going to be a General Election and therefore it did not shape the use of social media, but the amount spent in March was higher due to promotion of a number of government campaigns include childcare choices, national minimum wage and International Women’s Day.”

Speaking after the meeting, Brock said the Scotland Office had “become nothing more nor less than a Tory propaganda unit pumping out the latest cunning plan from the UK Government.”

“Everyone will remember that the Scotland Office has less to do now than it did in 1999 – the Calman Commission and the Smith Commission have driven responsibility to Holyrood instead, but still he keeps adding staff and spending more money on propaganda. His spin doctor costs have increased by more than six times since 2010 to nearly three quarters of a million pounds a year.”

Meanwhile, Mundell confirmed the UK Government had prepared analysis of how a hard Brexit might affect Scotland and promised this would be shared with the Scottish Government.

He also said there would be an “amendments forum” involving officials from the UK Government and the Scottish Government to look at how the EU withdrawal bill could be changed to make it more likely to receive consent from Holyrood.

He said he was “disappointed by the repeated power grab suggestion”, instead claiming Brexit would deliver a power bonanza.