CHAOS and confusion is surrounding claims that the UK Government is probing its Scottish counterpart’s expenditure on independence.

Labour peer George Foulkes has made public an email from the UK’s top law officer for Scotland, Advocate General Keith Stewart, which seems to explicitly say there is a probe ongoing.

But sources in the Scotland Office, which handles Stewart’s communications, are categorically denying to multiple news outlets that any such investigation exists.

The department’s official line is that it is “up to the Scottish Government how it spends its record block grant in devolved areas”.

READ MORE: New Scots family 'finally free of the Home Office' after 12-year battle

However, the probe which Foulkes has had assurance is happening would be looking at how the Scottish Government is spending money in reserved areas, specifically the constitution.

The confusion is leading to conflicting reports across Scotland’s media, with some of Friday’s front pages saying that a probe is happening, while others report it is not.

It all started after Foulkes 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 (below) 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.”

The National: Labour peer George Foulkes told the Lords that Scottish Government spending was to be investigated

The Tory minister’s confirmation added credence to Foulkes’s claims, which sources in the UK Government later denied.

But refuting the denial in turn, Foulkes made public an email he received from the Advocate General.

In it, Stewart said: “Thanks for your question at the Constitution Committee.

“After the committee rose, I discussed the matter with officials from my department and tasked them with examining the matter of expenditure on this post (of independence minister) by SG, and the allocation of civil service time and personnel.

“I shall revert to you in early course once they have reported.”

READ MORE: Fan fury after 'divisive' Ruth Davidson handed Scottish Rugby board role

Foulkes had questioned Stewart on the powers he held to police ultra-vires spending by the Scottish Government at the Constitution Committee at Westminster on June 28.

The Labour peer had said: “The Scottish Government are spending a significant amount of money on a Minister for Independence, when there is clearly not going to be a referendum, when constitutional matters are not devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government, and when clearly it is a political campaign.

“UK taxpayers’ money is being spent on 20 UK civil servants to support that minister. Surely you must have some powers as a law officer to intervene in that and to take some action against expenditure that is clearly improper.”

Stewart said it was his job to “patrol the margins of the devolution settlement”, going on: “The position, therefore, is that the manner in which the Scottish Government or other devolved administrations choose to spend the money that they get from central government is first and foremost a matter for them, but where they exceed their responsibilities we can step in.”

Foulkes said that money being spent on civil servants working on independence prospectuses was a “glaring” example, and asked: “Would you look at it again and see if something can be done?”

Stewart replied: “I can give that undertaking.”

His email, which Foulkes has made public, came after that exchange.

But denials of any probe's existence are still coming from the UK Government.

As mentioned, their official line is: “It is up to the Scottish Government how it spends its record block grant in devolved areas.

“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 UK.”