THE Scotland Office has spent an “eye-watering” £290,000 on travel and hotels in the space of a year, the Sunday National can reveal.

Our analysis of the department’s government procurement card (GPC) transactions and quarterly transparency returns revealed that Alister Jack’s officials charged hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of travel on the public purse in the space of 12 months.

The highest single amount lodged was £49,310.66 in April 2023, paid to CTM (Corporate Travel Management). It is not clear what these payments were for, as they are simply labelled “travel”.

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The Scotland Office insisted that payments made to CTM were not single transactions, and are invoiced payments for corporate travel. However, they would not provide a breakdown for any of the eight instances where this appeared in transparency data.

Overall, payments to CTM came to over £270,000.

The SNP said the Scotland Office should be clearer on what these transactions were for, and that they should be willing to demonstrate they were being “cost-efficient” with their travel spending.

The UK Government is required to publish spending on GPCs above £500 and £25,000 on its official website each month.

GPCs are not credit cards, but a way for officials to pay for goods and services, with a £100,000 monthly limit set for each UK department.

The National: Alister Jack

Other charges on the Scotland Office’s GPC transactions data related to payments including Facebook adverts and rent.

Collating this information, as each month is published separately, the Sunday National found that between December 2022 and November 2023, an astounding £290,276.39 was spent on travel and accommodation by the Scotland Office.

The second highest payment was for £43,378.95 in March 2023, followed by £42,300.77 in November, and £33,147.34 in December 2022. All three were labelled “travel” for the Scotland Office, but no further details about what this referred to were published in the data.

Other travel costs ranged from between £25,000 to almost £30,000 across 2023.

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There were four payments made to British Airways in March for foreign travel, totalling £4708.04, but again no location was disclosed.

And, there were an additional five payments made for accommodation, totalling £7311.97. This included £2857.12 to the Sofitel Metropole Hotel, a luxury five-star hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam, and £870.39 to the Sofitel Plaza Saigon in Ho Chi Minh City, also five stars, paid in October.

Jack embarked on a trade trip alongside the Scotch Whisky Association that month, according to a press release on the UK Government’s website.

Arcotel, a four-star hotel group with premises across Austria and Germany, was paid £2418.33 in March, but it is unclear which of the eleven sites officials stayed at.

Accommodation through in January cost £533.45, while a stay at the Clarion Post Hotel in Gothenburg, that same month, totalled £632.68.

“These sums are pretty eye-watering,” Tommy Sheppard, the SNP’s Scotland spokesperson at Westminster told the Sunday National.

“This is either a small number of people travelling very far in a great deal of luxury, or it's a huge number of people travelling economy.

“It is not clear.”

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Sheppard suggested it would be simple for the Scotland Office to be more transparent about its travel and spending, rather than the way information is currently disclosed.

He added: “It's silly, isn't it? Because whenever they play games like this, you have to ask what have they got to hide.

“Why don't they just try and demonstrate that it was done in the most cost-efficient way possible?”

When the Sunday National asked the Scotland Office what the payments of tens of thousands of pounds were for, and if they would provide clarity, the department would only say that it was for a mixture of domestic and foreign travel.

The National:

They said that some of the payments related to travel between offices in Queen Elizabeth House (above), Edinburgh, and Dover House, London, and others were ministerial trade trips.

However, they would not give any further details, only stating that the Scottish Government reports its travel expenditure in a similar form.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The Scotland Office plays a vital role in promoting the best interests of Scotland within a strong United Kingdom and effectively representing Scotland's interests at the heart of the UK Government.

“Our transparency data is published in accordance with established procedures across Whitehall.”

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Sheppard said that he had concerns that Scotland Office officials are “resistant” to talking about anything that is “particular, singular and distinctive” about Scotland during trade trips abroad.

“They just want to see Scotland as part of the Great Britain campaign, which is pretty sad, really,” he said.

“Because even if you didn't believe in independence, you've got to accept that Scotland's got some great brands that are going to work an awful lot better if they're promoted distinctively and by themselves.”

We previously told how unelected lord Malcolm Offord was branded an “expensive waste of space” after we revealed the details of his flashy trade trip to India alongside then-foreign secretary Liz Truss in 2021.