Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at Tory claims that she ordered the Union Flag be taken down from official government buildings.

The Scottish Government insists there has been no change in policy since 2010, when an informal decision was taken to fly the Lion Rampant more.

And former First Minister Alex Salmond told The National that the Queen herself approved the changes.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond reveals: The Queen herself approved changing union flag policy...eight years ago

What has changed recently, the government claims, is that the practice has been formalised, with new written guidance prepared by a civil servant.

Before 2010, there were 15 occasions when the Union Flag had been hoisted at key official and heritage sites, generally to mark royal birthdays and anniversaries.

That was changed just under eight years ago to use it only on Remembrance Sunday.

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, said: “Nicola Sturgeon’s always keen to stress that her civic nationalism is nothing to do with flags and banners.

“Yet here we have her trying to eradicate the Union Flag from government buildings in Scotland.

“This is just another example of the SNP government pushing its separatist agenda by stealth.

“Refusing to fly the Union Flag on the Queen’s birthday is something that may well appeal to the extreme elements of the nationalist movement. But ordinary members of the public will be altogether less convinced.”

Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former Press secretary, told the Daily Mail he thought the move “churlish”.

“It seems a swipe at Downing Street and at the Union rather than the monarchy as such. But I think it is a daft idea.’ As the front pages of the paper appeared online last night, the First Minister took to Twitter to describe them as “simply untrue”.

In an exchange with Tory radio host Iain Dale earlier this morning, the SNP leader explained: “It has been practice to fly Lion Rampant on Royal occasions since 2010. I have not ordered, instructed, authorised any change - indeed there has been no change.

“Civil servants recently updated published guidance to reflect the long standing practice.

“This update was a straightforward administrative task. I did not ask for it to be done. Indeed, I was not even aware it had been done until media enquiries were made.”

That was not good enough for Scots Tory MSP boss Ruth Davidson who tweeted: “The SNP government should be more concerned with raising standards, not lowering flags. Dismal stuff.”

Sturgeon later described Davidson’s tweet as “fake news”.

"Sadly, the truth will not matter to some in today’s media - and that’s part of a much bigger problem, I’m afraid. But I still believe (hope) it matters to most in the media - and certainly to the public."

Back in 2012, during the Queen’s diamond jubilee, the then First Minister Alex Salmond explained his thinking: “People are very proud of the Saltire but the flag that should be being flown in Scotland, in my view, is the Royal Standard, which is the Lion Rampant, which is in many senses the people's flag as well as the monarch's flag in Scotland.”

The Lion Rampant was historically the flag of the King of Scots. Its correct use is limited by law to those who represent the monarch in Scotland.

Salmond has always been a keen flyer of the Lion Rampant, first having it hoisted outside St Andrew’s House in 2007.

READ MORE: Alex Salmond reveals: The Queen herself approved changing union flag policy...eight years ago

The First Minister, as Keeper of the Great Seal of Scotland, is one of the Crown representatives permitted to use the Arms.

Salmond told The National: “Given that this has been the policy for eight years with the Lion Rampant flying proudly on royal occasions, including jubilees and new royal births and weddings as well as birthdays, why have none of these Tory politicians and newspapers even noticed the flags flying in front of their eyes for the best part of a decade.

“Secondly, since this change of policy was good enough for the Her Majesty the Queen then why is it being questioned by these ridiculous newspapers and political ignoramuses. “In any case why do they resent the flying of The Lion Rampant? “One has to ask are they harbouring closet republican tendencies that they object to the Scottish Royal Standard being flown high and proud?”