THE SNP are demanding an official inquiry into “rampant cronyism” in the highest levels of the UK Government.

It comes after it was revealed Boris Johnson’s administration has awarded £1.5 billion of taxpayers’ money to companies linked to the Conservative Party during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Sunday Times reports that “none of the firms were prominent government suppliers before this year”.

Concerns have also been raised about access granted to lobbyists, after some were hired in secret to advise health ministers.

One of those lobbyists, George Pascoe-Watson, advised the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and was involved in daily discussions chaired by test and trace minister Lord Bethell – as well as communication strategy meetings with Matt Hancock and test and trace chief Dido Harding.

He held the unpaid position from April until October 7. On October 15, he emailed clients of his lobbying firm to say he had been "privately advised" restrictions in London launched that day would continue until spring 2021, before adding: "Decision-makers have told me personally,” according to the Sunday Times.

READ MORE: Lobbyists working for UK Government leaked sensitive information

Two weeks later, the clients were told that the Prime Minister was mulling over a nationwide lockdown – and that he was likely to “announce next week that he is prepared to ‘sacrifice November to save December’”. That was three days before details leaked to the press hit the front pages, sparking an inquiry in Number 10.

An OpenDemocracy investigation also found that former Tory chairman, Andrew Feldman, was given a job advising a health minister despite potential conflicts of interest with clients of the lobbying firm that he runs.

SNP Westminster depute leader Kirsten Oswald MP has called for an investigation.

The National: SNP MP Kirsten OswaldSNP MP Kirsten Oswald

She said: "These shocking revelations add to the growing concerns over rampant cronyism at the heart of this Tory government, which has shown itself to be rotten to the core.

"There are serious questions for Boris Johnson to answer over the awarding of billions in public funds to companies with links to the Tory party, and the appearance that the Tory Government has been handing out jobs for the boys to friends, relatives, donors and lobbyists.

"There must be a public inquiry into the scandalous way that public money, jobs and privileged access have been handed out by the Tory government during this crisis.”

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has also called for an inquiry into the appointments, describing them as an “insult to the British people”.

Pascoe-Watson said in a statement provided to the PA news agency he had stepped down from his unpaid role by mutual agreement on October 7.

He added: "The information shared with clients on October 15 and 29 was in no way connected to the Test and Trace calls, in which I was no longer a participant."

The DHSC said: “We have drawn on the expertise of a number of private sector partners who provided advice and expertise to assist in vital work.”