THE SNP have accused Alister Jack of shelling out “hand over fist on a propaganda unit” after new figures revealed rising spending on communications staff and campaigns in recent years.

Data released under Freedom of ­Information legislation show the bill for communications staff at the ­Scotland Office has risen by nearly 30% in the past four years.

Last year the total was £906,177, compared to £710,337 in 2017-18 – although the number of staff has ­remained around the same.

Official records also show the ­Scottish Secretary employs four ­special advisers, who are each on a pay band of between £57,000-£80,000.

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Meanwhile, the cost of Scotland ­Office spend on public information campaigns has also trebled from £24,476 in 2017-18 to £75,881 last year.

SNP MSP Neil Gray said the ­spending on a team of spin doctors for a Scotland Office that “doesn’t meaningfully govern anything” is a “quite staggering waste”.

He said: “Instead of using taxpayers’ money to rebuild our recovery from the pandemic, Alister Jack is shelling out hand over fist on a propaganda unit with the sole purpose of plastering stuff with the union flag.

“What the Scotland Office should have been doing this year is standing up for Scotland in the midst of this disastrous Tory Brexit – imposed on us against our will – and fighting back against the Westminster power grab on Holyrood and devolution.”

The FOI response shows the ­number of communications staff has ­remained at 13 over the past four years, with the exception of 2018-19 when there were 12 in total.

However, overall costs expenditure on staffing has risen for each of the past four years – with a total of £819,640 in 2018-19 and £870,159 in 2019-20.

Meanwhile, the costs of expenditure on public information campaigns reached its second highest total in 2018-19, when the amount was £58,704.

That dropped back to £36,704 in 2019-20, ­before increasingly to the highest total of the past four years in 2020-21.

According to the Cabinet Office latest annual report on special advisers, published in July this year, Jack employs four .

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland has three and the Secretary of State for Wales has two.

In September there was an outcry after Edinburgh-based financier and Tory donor Malcolm Offord was made a minister at the Scotland ­Office.

He was appointed ­Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the ­Scotland Office, after trying and ­failing to secure the Conservative candidacy in Edinburgh Central at the recent Holyrood election.

Offord replaced Banff & Buchan MP David Duguid, who was sacked, and his appointment meant Boris Johnson overlooked the two Tory MPs who might have done the role instead – Andrew Bowie and John Lamont.

According to Electoral ­Commission records, Offord has given the Conservative party more than £135,000 since 2007, as well as giving £2500 to Tory MP Michael Gove in 2019.

Gray added: “Regardless of how truly woeful the Scotland Office has been, Alister Jack still doesn’t believe any of his fellow Tory MPs are good enough to work there.

“Instead they have ­appointed an unelected multi-millionaire Tory donor as a ­government minister.

“We cannot trust the Tories to protect the ­future of Scotland. The only way we can protect Scotland is with a referendum for recovery where the people of Scotland can choose a different path with ­independence.”

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A letter responding to the FOI requested stated the Office of the Secretary of State for ­Scotland is “resourced to deliver the ­communications functions expected and ­required of a government department in its own right and on behalf of the UK Government in Scotland.”

A Scotland Office ­spokeswoman said: “Our public information ­campaigns are a cost effective way to increase awareness of UK Government initiatives in Scotland.

“Last year these included a broad range of pandemic responses such as support for businesses and workers, coronavirus testing facilities, and the development and supply of vaccines.

“The Office is staffed appropriately. All staff working at the department are employed by other areas of government, including the Scottish Government, with pay, terms and conditions set by parent ­departments.”