SPENDING on independence by the Scottish Government is not being probed by UK officials, despite a claim to the contrary made in the House of Lords, according to reports.

The confusion came after George Foulkes, a Labour peer, told the upper chamber on Thursday that the “Advocate General for Scotland has agreed, at my request, to instruct his officials to investigate ultra-vires expenditure by the Scottish Government. That is a great step forward.”

Ultra vires is Latin and means "beyond the powers". It describes actions taken by government bodies or corporations that exceed the scope of power given to them by laws or corporate charters.

Foulkes added: “Can [Treasury minister Joanna Penn] give an assurance that her officials in the Treasury will work co-operatively with the Advocate-General’s officials?”

Penn responded: “I can give the noble Lord that assurance.”

Foulkes then wrote on Twitter: "Today in @UKHouseofLords Treasury Minister Baroness Penn has agreed that Treasury officials will co-operate with the Advocate General and his officials in examining improper expenditure by SNP."

But it is now understood that no such investigation is ongoing, with a UK Government spokesperson saying it “is up to the Scottish Government how it spends its record block grant in devolved areas”.

The spokesperson added: “We have been consistently clear that we think that the priority for people in Scotland is halving inflation, tackling the NHS waiting times, ensuring energy security and growing our economy across the whole of the UK.”

News agency PA also reported that there is no UK Government investigation into the Scottish Government’s spending on independence.

Addressing the reports that he was mistaken, again on Twitter, the peer wrote: "Hansard doesn’t lie!"

Hansard is the official record of what was said in parliament and only reports on what members of the House have said. It does not fact-check.

Foulkes (below), a former Labour Scotland Office minister, has previously claimed it is illegal for the SNP to spend “UK taxpayers’ money” to plan for a second referendum and promote the case for independence.

The National: George Foulkes claims it is illegal for the SNP to spend ‘UK taxpayers’ money’ to plan for a second independence referendum

In July 2022, Conservatives in the House of Lords rejected his repeated pleas for the Scottish Government to be forbidden from spending money on a future referendum.

Stephen Greenhalgh, then a levelling up minister, replied that although he agreed with Foulkes’s sentiment he would not be escalating it further.

He said: “It is clearly an important issue to maintain the Union but the devolution settlement set out the responsibilities that fall within devolved and reserved competence.

“Scottish ministers are accountable to their own legislature and electorate for their actions, including for their expenditure decisions.”

In November 2022, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack said that the head of the UK Civil Service would look into whether Scottish officials should be allowed to work on indyref2 preparation.

READ MORE: Alister Jack reveals UK civil service could block Scottish indyref2 preparation

But appearing at the same committee hearing, Scotland Office minister Malcolm Offord insisted that the Scottish Government could spend its money as it likes.

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