THE SNP has said Scottish Secretary Alister Jack must explain why the Tory Government is “wasting” millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on the Scotland Office after increases in spending by the department.

Figures obtained by the party from a freedom of information request revealed overall spending has risen by 73% from £4,949,000 in 2013/14 to £8,538,000 in 2019/20.

The data found spending on communications almost tripled – rising from £509,343 in 2013/14 to £1,354,776 in 2019/20, while spending on spin doctors soared – with the total number of Scotland Office communications staff rising almost three times from 6 in 2011/12 to 17 in 2019/20.

In October, reports suggested the UK Government would spend more money in Scotland on anti-independence messages by creating a new “Union Unit” or “Union Taskforce”.

Last year, the Scottish Affairs Committee recommended the Scotland Office’s existence be reviewed.

SNP shadow secretary of state for Scotland Mhairi Black said it was now “little more than a Tory propaganda unit” which failed to stand up for Scotland in the face of Brexit and the Internal Market Bill, which the SNP say is a “power grab” on Holyrood.

“The Scotland Office is now little more than a Tory propaganda unit, and the huge increases in spending on spin doctors and advertising are completely indefensible – particularly when Scottish taxpayers are being forced to foot the bill,” said Black.

“It is clearer than ever, that the only way to protect Scotland’s interests and our place in Europe is to become an independent country. People in Scotland deserve the right to choose our own future instead of having it dictated to us.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “This is a petty and baseless attack, and hugely disappointing at a time when public information has never been more important.

“The Secretary of State’s communications team has been working flat out, and working closely with Scottish Government colleagues, to ensure that people and businesses across Scotland have the information they need to stay safe and deal with Covid-19.”