THE head of the UK Civil Service will look into whether Scottish officials should still be allowed to work on indyref2 preparation, according to Alister Jack - despite a Tory minister suggesting the Scottish Government can legally spend money on anything it likes.

Cabinet Secretary Simon Case and senior civil servants are discussing the issue with John-Paul Marks, the Scottish Government’s permanent secretary, Jack said.

Meanwhile, Tory peer and minister Malcolm Offord asserted that funding from the UK Treasury to the Scottish Government comes “with no strings attached” during a Scottish Affairs Committee hearing at Westminster.

Offord – who was handed a life seat in the Lords by Boris Johnson so he could take on a vacant ministerial role at the Scotland Office – was challenged at the committee by the SNP’s shadow leader of the House of Commons Deidre Brock.

READ MORE: Unionists in legal bid to block Scottish Government spending on independence

The SNP MP asked Offord and Jack about claims from Unionist politicians that it may be illegal for the Scottish Government to spend money in reserved areas – such as preparations for independence.

Those claims have been taken further by the Unionist campaigner and entrepreneur Robert Kilgour, who is preparing a legal bid in an attempt to prevent the Scottish Government spending in reserved areas.

Brock brought up comments from Professor Aileen McHarg, a professor of public law and human rights at Durham University, who called the claims of unlawfulness “ludicrous”.

Offord (below) appeared to agree that the Scottish Government was free to spend money wherever it liked.

The National:

“The UK treasury sends money to Scotland with no strings attached,” he said.

“It’s not bifurcated … the UK Government doesn’t do that. It sends it to the Scottish Government and lets the Scottish Government make its own decision as to how it feels best it should spend that money.”

However, Jack then said he would like to “clarify” the point, claiming it was a “matter for the civil service”.

“I think on this one I would hold fire until we see how this plays out,” the Scottish Secretary said.

Jack’s comments seemed to have an eye on an intervention from Tory MSP and constitution spokesperson Donald Cameron.

Cameron has written to John-Paul Marks, the permanent secretary to the Scottish Government, asking him to assess whether the forecasted spend of £20 million on indyref2 preparation is “lawful”.

It was not the only time at the committee that Offord and Jack appeared slightly at odds.

SNP MP Mhairi Black asked the pair if they accepted that the “Conservative Party have not received a mandate from Scotland since 1955”.

Jack began to answer, but was shouted down by Offord.

“No, no, because it’s within the rules of the United Kingdom constitution and within those rules we all four of us are together,” the peer said.

Jack attempted to give his own answer, trying to stop Offord talking to do so, but was unable to speak over his colleague.