THE SNP have branded claims that Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman bought "burner phones" at the start of the Covid lockdown as “desperate” and “grossly misleading”.

The Scottish Daily Express has reported that the then first minister and health secretary bought cheap prepaid mobile phones and top-up cards in March 2020, citing allowances claimed by the pair as MSPs.

A burner phone is a cheap mobile phone intended to be used for a short period of time to maintain privacy.

Sturgeon is said to have bought an £18.16 Nokia mobile phone from Amazon on March 29, along with £18 in SIM card top-ups.

The National:

Freeman bought two £29.95 mobile phones from ScotMid on March 24 – the first full day of pandemic lockdown – as well as two £10 top-ups.

Under Holyrood expenses for “incidental and ancillary employment cost provision”, she later claimed back a further £180 in top-ups, while Sturgeon purchased a second pre-paid phone costing £24.29 and four £6 GiffGaff top-up cards.

The SNP have now hit back at claims there are questions to answer over the purchases – saying they were to aid staff suddenly working from home due to the pandemic.

An SNP spokesperson: “It’s ridiculous that Nicola, Jeane nor the party were approached for a response prior to publication regarding these grossly misleading and false accusations. This is truly desperate stuff.

The National: xxx

“Like many MSPs, mobile phones were purchased to allow Nicola and Jeane’s constituency staff to work from home and assist constituents – during the most difficult time our country had faced in recent memory.

“If the Express had approached the party before publication, we would have confirmed this.”

Former first minister Sturgeon is set to address the UK Covid Inquiry on Wednesday.