THE SCOTLAND Office has denied spending public money for party political purposes.

SNP MP Deidre Brock said she had uncovered proof the Tory government department had spent money on adverts promoting Scotland’s trade with the rest of UK that would deliberately exclude independence supporters.

In answers to written questions in parliament, Scottish Secretary David Mundell confirmed to the Edinburgh North and Leith MP that his department’s 2017 “Scotland’s trade” campaign had been promoted to people on social media, except for those who declared an interest in Scottish independence.

READ MORE: David Mundell should come clean over social media advertising

The Scotland Office deny implications of wrongdoing, saying ignoring people “interested” in Scottish independence in targeted social media adverts also means ignoring people supportive of the Union.

Writing in today’s National, Brock admits this isn’t quite Cambridge Analytica, but says there are questions to be answered: “I’ve no problem with politicians making political points but they shouldn’t use public money to mount a targeted advertising campaign when their arguments are failing.

“What Mr Mundell has been doing isn’t what Cambridge Analytica was doing but it’s presenting one face to one group of people and a different face to another group. We should expect more from government ministers – we should expect that they would be consistent in what they say.”

Last month, the investigate website The Ferret obtained a swathe of documents under Freedom of Information that disclosed details of how the Scotland Office targeted Facebook messages at specific groups of people in Scotland, including one advertising campaign solely aimed at small business owners in Mundell’s Dumfriesshire constituency.

Other campaigns targeted armed forces personnel in Scotland.

A UK Government spokesman dismissed Brock’s claims, saying it was about getting their message to people not normally engaged in politics.

“It is nonsense to say that we targeted everyone except independence supporters.

“The category ‘interested in independence’ includes those with views on both sides of the argument – it does not only exclude those who support independence.

“It is inaccurate to say that is the case.

“The simple fact is that all of our digital material is publicly available to all via our channels. The additional audience category we targeted on this occasion merely boosted the message to those who may not have been aware of the information and were less likely to be engaged in online debate.”

As revealed in The National last month, the “Scotland’s trade” campaign cost the UK Government £50,000 of public money.

The adverts told Scots that trade with the rest of the UK was worth four times more than trade with Europe.

They were targeted at Facebook, Google and Twitter users as the UK Government officials moved to “ensure the public are equipped with the facts” on the value of doing business with “barrier-free” markets in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Of the £47,395 spent, almost £40,000 of the money went to Facebook, with around £4000 buying pay-per-click ads on Google. Around £4500 was spent on Twitter.

The material compared figures for Scotland’s trade with the EU and Scotland’s trade with the UK.