THE UK Government spending more than £163,000 on Union flags in two years is a "deliberate plot" to promote its own political ends, the SNP say.

The news comes from figures first reported by the Guardian which showed spending had increased in virtually every Whitehall department since Boris Johnson became Prime Minister.

The more than £163,000 spend in 2020 and 2021 amounts to 85% of flag purchases over the past four years.

The Ministry of Defence has spent £118,000 since the start of 2018 while the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) spent £54,420.89 last year alone as worn-out flags were replaced.

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In March, the DCMS published new guidance calling for the flag to be flown every day above Government buildings.

At the time, Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden (below) said the flag was a “proud reminder of our history and the ties that bind us”, and “people rightly expect it to be flown above UK Government buildings”.

Exemptions apply when other flags – such as national flags of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, county flags or other flags to mark “civic pride” – are flown.

The National:

The figures also show that the Cabinet Office has spent more than £3000 since the start of 2018, with just under £2000 of that funding the purchase of eight flags in the most recent financial year.

The figures, revealed by Freedom of Information Act requests, found the Treasury has spent nearly £1000 on Union flags since 2018, including three this year at a cost of £607.06.

The Department for Transport has spent £1100 since 2018, including £700 last year, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spent £90.05 on the flags this year, with no record of purchases in other recent years.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy spent £392 this year and last – zero in the years previously – while the Department for Work and Pensions spent £1045 in the last three years.

The Department for International Trade spent £653.05 this year and last.

The Department for Education spent £134 in 2019, the Wales Office has spent £824 since 2018. This included £597.50 in 2020-21 and the same amount again on Welsh flags.

SNP MP John Nicolson called the spending "ludicrous", while his colleague Tommy Sheppard said: “People will find it quite odd in the middle of a public health crisis that expenditure on flags is something that has been increasing."

Sheppard went on: “The truth is that this is a deliberate plot by the government to use the union flag to promote its political ends and it just doesn’t fool people.

"I’m reminded of the comment by Boris Johnson’s 18th-century namesake [Samuel Johnson] that patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel."

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Academic and founder of Scientists for EU Dr Mike Galsworthy commented: "The Government’s incessant use of the flag is not British culture.

"It is a fig-leaf masking their destruction of British culture."

King’s College London's Professor David Edgerton previously said the UK’s symbol had “become more prominent than it has ever been”.

Edgerton said that, historically, the British ruling classes viewed an over-reliance on flags as something for the less developed and less civilised nations of the world.

He added: “It is a symbol of the collapse of Britain as a great nation that it feels the need to fly the flag.”

Robert Colls, professor of cultural history at De Montfort University, told the Guardian: “I think what we are seeing at the moment from the Government is a kind of pushback against devolution and threats to the Union.”