DAVID Mundell has been accused of an “indefensible frittering away” of public money after new figures revealed a huge surge in spending during his time as Secretary of State for Scotland.

The SNP is calling for an urgent review of Scotland Office finances following an analysis uncovering a dramatic rise in budgets, including for foreign travel and communications.

Mundell has spent a total of £56,521 on overseas travel since taking office in May 2015, with a range of trips including to New Zealand, Iceland, Singapore, the USA, Hong Kong, Japan and Paraguay and Argentina.

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That figure is nearly 50% up on the total sum of £31,087 spent by his two of his predecessors between May 2010 and May 2015.

The Scotland Office bill for spending on communications has also soared in recent years – with a total of £757, 868 spent in 2016-17 and £710,337 in 2017-18. It is more than six times the figure of around a decade ago, with £113,236 spent in 2007-8 and £115,356 spent in 2008-9.

The National:

SNP MP Deidre Brock said: “David Mundell needs to put the credit card away – and urgently explain why there has been such an astronomical and indefensible increase in taxpayers’ cash being frittered away by his zombie department.

“The Tory Scottish Secretary has presided over soaring levels of public spending, with no discernible benefit to the taxpayer – whose money is being wasted away on what appears to be a Tory propaganda campaign.”

She added: “Shockingly, these huge increases in spending on foreign trips, spin doctors, social media advertising, and posh drinks receptions, have come at the same time the Tory government has imposed austerity cuts on Scotland’s budget.

“It’s time for an urgent review into why expenditure keeps going up when the responsibilities of the Scotland Office are in decline.” In June this year, MPs on Westminster’s

Scottish Affairs Committee called for a review of the role of the Scotland Office, saying “fundamental changes” were needed to rebuild trust between the Scottish and UK governments.

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Earlier this month, Prime Minister Theresa May announced a review of how Whitehall could do more to strengthen the Union, which will include looking at the role of the Scotland Office – a move which was welcomed by Mundell.

Brock added: “With David Mundell on his way out, consideration must also be given to the future of the department, which has been completely ineffective at advocating Scotland’s opposition to Tory plans for Brexit, austerity cuts and power grabs, and has ignored our interests on vital issues such as devolving immigration powers to meet Scotland’s specific needs.”

The National:

The figures also reveal the Scotland Office under Mundell has spent an average of £12,125 per year on the category of “procurement card spend over £500” – which includes expenses related to corporate events and spending on social media, including advertising on Facebook and Twitter.

The equivalent figure for his predecessors was £3551 for Jim Murphy, £1355 for Michael Moore and £3552 for Alistair Carmichael.

When it comes to departmental spend over £25,000, the costs in recent years have again soared.

The average yearly spend under Mundell is £1,513,650 – covering spend on items such as repairs and maintenance, administration, travel services and IT.

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For Murphy the total was £831,393 and for Moore it was £469,469, while Carmichael spent £914,244 in this category. A Scotland Office source insisted the huge surge in spending was justified and dismissed the complaint as the SNP “banging on about independence again”.

The source said: “We are absolutely satisfied our communications spend represents good value for the taxpayer.

“It is vital we explain the work of the UK Government and the value of the Union.

“Deidre Brock appears happy for the Scottish Government to spend any amount of money promoting independence.”

The Scotland Office also defended the spending as “value for money” by comparing it to Scottish Government costs – saying Mundell’s most expensive foreign trip was less than half the cost of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s recent visit to North America, which cost £44,000.

A UK Government spokeswoman said: “The Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland represents Scottish interests at the heart of Whitehall and promotes the work of the UK Government in Scotland.

“At a time when the Scottish Government is doing all it can to bring about divisive and unwanted constitutional change, the role of the Office of the Secretary of State for Scotland ‎is more important than ever.

“People in Scotland chose to remain part of a strong UK and the UK Government is working hard for them.”