THE SNP's Westminster leader has accused the UK’s top civil servant of having a “partisan political agenda” after he confirmed that Scottish Government spending on independence was being probed by his officials.

It comes after cabinet secretary Simon Case, the most senior civil servant in the UK, told peers at Westminster that the SNP government spending taxpayer money on independence would be “a bit worrying”.

Appearing before the Lords Constitution Committee, Case was asked by Labour peer George Foulkes about devolved administrations spending in reserved areas.

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Case said that “civil servants in Scotland and Wales can only spend their money on areas that are within their competence”, before confirming that the constitution is a reserved matter.

He was then asked specifically about Jamie Hepburn, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Independence, and the team of 20 civil servants allegedly supporting his work.

Case responded: “We are looking at some of these specifics as we speak, and doing that with ministers at the moment to see whether we need to issue further guidance and clarification to civil servants about what is and is not appropriate spending.

“I don’t want to prejudge the outcome of that.”

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Foulkes (above) then asked: “If civil servants are effectively supporting ministers who want to break up the United Kingdom, and these are United Kingdom civil servants paid for by taxpayers’ money, it would be a bit unusual and a bit worrying, wouldn’t it?”

Case responded: “I agree with you it would be unusual and a bit worrying which is why we are looking at the specifics of cases that you and other members raise regularly in correspondence.”

In the wake of Case’s comments, the SNP’s leader at Westminster, Stephen Flynn, suggested that he was pursuing a “partisan political agenda” despite civil servants’ obligations to remain impartial.

Flynn said: “To have blurted out this anti-democratic stance in a House of Lords committee is a blunder for the UK Government.

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“We will see what emerges, but anything that further buries the notion that the UK is a voluntary union of countries will backfire in Scotland, and have the effect of boosting support for independence further.

“This reflects a partisan political agenda, and Simon Case admitted that he is working with Tory ministers on potentially preventing the Scottish Government from fulfilling its democratic mandate to explain the case for independence to the people of Scotland.”

Flynn (below) added: “A majority of MSPs were elected on a pro-independence platform, and it is the policy of the Scottish Government for Scotland to become a nation state within the European Union.

“If Westminster imposes a double standard that the UK Government can work to uphold the Union, but the Scottish Government can’t promote the benefits of independence, the idea that the UK is anything even close to a partnership of equals will have been tested to its destruction.”

The National: LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Leader of the Scottish National Party in the House of Commons Stephen Flynn poses for a portrait in the Houses of Parliament on January 24, 2023 in London, England. Elected into the role in December 2022, Flynn replaced Ian

A Scottish Government spokesperson echoed Flynn’s closing comments, saying: “The Scottish Government was elected with a clear mandate to provide the people of Scotland with the information they need to make an informed choice about their future.

“It is the role of the civil service to support the elected government of the day in developing and implementing its policies.”

Scotland’s most senior civil servant, permanent secretary John-Paul Marks, ultimately answers to Case.

Case was given the top role by Boris Johnson after the previous cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, resigned in June 2020 following reported clashes with Dominic Cummings.

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Case’s comments at the Lords committee put to bed any confusion surrounding the existence of a probe into ultra-vires – meaning “beyond the powers” – spending by the Edinburgh government, which came after Foulkes raised the issue in the Lords.

The Labour peer told parliament, and later produced an email confirming, that Advocate General for Scotland Keith Stewart had “agreed, at my request, to instruct his officials to investigate ultra-vires expenditure by the Scottish Government”.

Sources within the Scotland Office denied such a probe existed, but their official line left the question open. They said that it was “up to the Scottish Government how it spends its record block grant in devolved areas” – leaving the issue of spending in reserved areas officially unaddressed.

The Cabinet Office has been asked for comment.