DAVID Mundell has been accused of “partying on the public purse” after the Scotland Office’s hospitality budget jumped by 585 per cent in a year.

In 2015-16, the department, who promote “the best interests of Scotland within a stronger United Kingdom” spent £8987 on hospitality.

But in 2016-17 that skyrocketed to £61,641.73.

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Edinburgh Leith and Northern MP Deidre Brock, who tabled a question in Parliament asking Mundell for details of the hospitality spend, said she was staggered by the answer, especially given Tory austerity.

“David Mundell must explain why there has been such a huge increase in Scotland Office spending on hospitality, and whether Scottish Tory ministers really are busy partying on the public purse,” said Brock

“People across Scotland who have suffered as a result of Tory austerity cuts will find this lavish expenditure utterly astonishing given the UK Government is also cutting Scotland’s budget – with a £2.6 billion real-terms cut to the block grant Scotland needs to fund the NHS, schools, policing and other public services.

“With devolution the Scotland Office has become a redundant zombie department, yet the Scottish Secretary has the taxpayer’s credit card out again, and is splashing our hard-earned cash on posh canapes, fizzy wine, and entertainment – at a time when Tory cuts are forcing many families to rely on food banks and emergency aid just to feed their children.

“Of course some government events can represent value for money, but David Mundell’s spending on posh parties is clearly getting out of control and it is Scotland’s taxpayers that are having to pick up the bill.”

Brock has previously questioned the hike in the overall cost of the Scotland Office. Figures obtained by the MP show the cost of media relations has risen from £108,439 in 2010, when the Tories came to power, to £686,166 last year.

The last Labour Scotland Office had a staff of five. But under Mundell there were 71 employees, with the department’s salary bill approaching £9 million. “How do you justify that increase when responsibility – your responsibilities specifically – have decreased?” Brock asked the Scottish Tory minister at the a meeting of the Scotland Affair’s Committee.

Mundell suggested the cost was down to the independence referendum. “Because of the constitutional debate we’ve enjoyed in Scotland, those responsibilities have been greater in the sense of my constitutional responsibilities, in terms of the last parliament, taking through the Scotland Bill – which is a very significant piece of legislation which was taken through, I think with great skill, by a relatively small department.”

He said the department had taken seriously the recommendation by the Smith Commission that people in Scotland should have more information to help them “understand the roles of both of their governments”.

Brock also queried social media advertising costs for last year, which hovered around a few hundred pounds most months then rose to nearly £12,000 in March. She asked the minister to explain that rise “just before the election”.

Mundell replied: “I hope it’s not a shock but I wasn’t aware there was going to be a General Election and therefore it did not shape the use of social media, but the amount spent in March was higher due to promotion of a number of government campaigns include childcare choices, national minimum wage and International Women’s Day.”

Speaking after the meeting, Brock said the Scotland Office had “become nothing more nor less than a Tory propaganda unit pumping out the latest cunning plan from the UK Government”.

“Everyone will remember that the Scotland Office has less to do now than it did in 1999 – the Calman Commission and the Smith Commission have driven responsibility to Holyrood instead, but still he keeps adding staff and spending more money on propaganda. His spin-doctor costs have increased by more than six times since 2010 to nearly three-quarters of a million pounds a year.”

A UK Government spokesperson said: “The role of the Scotland Office and its ministers is more important than ever as we work to strengthen our economy and ensure Scotland is ready for Brexit. Events and stakeholder engagement play an important part in this work by gathering views from within Scotland, championing Scotland’s interests at the heart of Whitehall, and promoting Scotland’s interests across the whole of the UK and overseas.

“The UK Government has supported important events such as the Royal Highland Show to meet with food and farming sectors and hosted iconic Scottish food and drink businesses at the Taste of Scotland event.

“It is right that we effectively engage and communicate with the public and stakeholders on how the UK Government is delivering for Scotland and we do so while ensuring value for taxpayers’ money.”