THE newspaper journalist who masterminded the pro-Union “Vow” ahead of the 2014 independence referendum has been hired as the SNP’s new spin doctor.

Murray Foote, the former Daily Record editor, will start next week as the party’s head of communications and research at Holyrood.

His appointment comes ahead of next year’s Holyrood election, where the SNP will be fighting to get their fourth successive term in government since first being elected to power in 2007.

The campaign for a second independence referendum is expected to be the major focus of the election following Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s refusal of Nicola Sturgeon’s request to devolve powers to Holyrood to hold a new vote.

Foote, 53, was instrumental in orchestrating the Vow and putting it on the tabloid’s front page two days before the September 18 vote after a poll put Yes ahead.

READ MORE: Positive reactions from ministers and Yessers to party’s new comms boss

Signed by then Tory prime minister David Cameron, Labour’s Ed Miliband and LibDem Nick Clegg, it promised “extensive new powers” for Holyrood if Scots voted No.

Former first minister Alex Salmond credited it with swaying public opinion against independence, although pollsters say its influence has been over-rated.

It has nevertheless become an object of loathing and derision for many Yes supporters.

Foote told The Herald yesterday: “I have always been sympathetic to the cause.

“Anybody who knows me knows – this does not come as a surprise to them.”

Asked about the Vow, he said: “I had a job to do.

“My job was to represent the views of the readership of the Daily Record.

“That was what I did to the best of my ability, regardless of my political persuasion.”

In 2018, after retiring as four years as Record editor, Foote announced he was a supporter of independence.

Foote defended the Vow in 2018 in an interview with The National after announcing he supported independence.

In the interview he refused to say how he voted in the 2014 referendum.

But asked if the Vow might in the end be seen as a step towards independence, he said: “That’s exactly what it will be.”

He said the motivation for the Vow was to hold the pro-Union politicians to their word that they would deliver more powers to Holyrood in the event of a No vote.

Foote said: “There has been a lot of nonsense written about the Vow and the motivation for it.

“The motivation was purely out of distrust with the Unionist line that we were given by politicians that more powers would come.

“As prior to the infamous or famous Sunday Times poll which put Yes ahead, the Better Together campaign could barely agree which day of the week it was let alone which powers would be further devolved.”

Asked in the interview with The National that as an independence supporter, if he regretted the Vow, he said: “Absolutely not, the Vow was done in good faith at the time it was done and I do not recognise any suggestion it affected the material outcome of the vote … it was pretty obvious it was the economy.

“I don’t recognise that I was either the saviour of the Union or the person who prevented independence.”

He said the Vow ensured that more powers were devolved, and pointing to income tax and social security powers moving to Holyrood, he said the measures allowed the Scottish Government to distinguish itself positively from the Conservative Government at Westminster.

“My personal view is that [the Vow] will be looked upon as another stepping stone that allowed the current government to display a substantial change to the way Westminster governs Britain and Holyrood governs Scotland.

“We keep hearing the word compassionate from Jeane Freeman [the Health Secretary and former social security minster] about the

new benefit system and I hope that is the case.

“If [the Vow] saves some Scots the ignominy of the dreadful rigours that are placed upon the most vulnerable in society … if that alleviates some of the misery, then it’s been a great thing.”

A media veteran with 33 years in newspapers, his appointment will be seen as a major coup by the SNP as it heads towards the 2021

Holyrood election, albeit a controversial one.

Foote will take over from Fergus Mutch, the SNP’s defeated candidate for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine in December’s General Election.

Mutch, who increased the party’s vote share in the constituency, announced the decision last month.