THE Tories have been accused by the SNP of “bare-faced hypocrisy” for criticising of the appointment of an independence minister, while the UK Government appears to have spent millions supporting the work of the Minister for the Union.

The appointment of Jamie Hepburn by new First Minister Humza Yousaf as Scotland’s first-ever minister tasked solely with advancing the case for independence triggered a huge outcry from Unionists, who have branded him a “taxpayer-funded nationalist campaigner”.

However since 2019, there has been a role in the UK Government of Minister for the Union, which was created by Boris Johnson, held by Liz Truss during her short-lived disastrous premiership and is now with Rishi Sunak.

A Spending Round paper which set out the UK Government’s spending plans for 2020-21, stated that there would be “£10 million of additional funding to strengthen the links between the four nations of the Union as the UK leaves the EU, supporting the work of the Prime Minister as Minister for the Union. Of this, £5m will be allocated to the Territorial Offices.”

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The official description of the role states only that the “Prime Minister works to ensure that all of government is acting on behalf of the entire United Kingdom: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales”.

However when Johnson proposed the creation of the role during the 2019 Tory leadership he said: “We members of this precious Union are therefore so obviously and so irrefutably more than the sum of our parts; and that is why I am a passionate believer in the Unions - all of them - and when you look at the scale of our collective achievement, I simply cannot understand why anyone would want to mutilate this country and to break it up.

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“So if I am lucky enough to be elected in the next few weeks, I will do anything in my power to stop that disaster, and to bring this country together.'

He went on: “I believe that the occupant of Number 10 should be not just Prime Minister and First Lord of the Treasury and Minister for the Civil Service. He or she should be Minister for the Union as well.”

And speaking during the Conservative leadership contest, Truss said: “As Prime Minister, I would also hold the role of Minister for the Union and seek to strengthen it.

'My government would put the Union at the heart of everything it does and ensure all corners of our country are rightly championed at the very top of government.

“For too long, people in parts of our United Kingdom have been let down by their devolved administrations playing political games instead of focusing on their priorities.”

SNP MSP Collette Stevenson said: "This is yet another example of bare-faced Tory hypocrisy - happy to shill the public purse to prop up a broken union that short-changes Scotland, but the first to clutch pearls when the Scottish Government takes action on manifesto commitments.

"Brimming with talent and fresh ideas, the First Minister has appointed a Cabinet and a government that are focused on the priorities of the Scottish people which will illustrate exactly why Scotland should be an independent country – and it's clear the Tories are scared.

"As Scotland continues to be dragged down by Westminster governments that ignore our voice at every turn, independence has never been more vital to unlock Scotland's potential and escape the disastrous impact of Westminster control for good."

At First Minister’s Questions last week, Douglas Ross attacked Yousaf for the creation of the role, saying he had appointed a "taxpayer-funded nationalist campaigner".

But Yousaf said: “I make no apology whatsoever for having a minister for independence because my goodness we need independence now more than ever before because in energy-rich Scotland we have Scots that are fuel poor because of the UK Government’s policies.

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“We need independence now more than ever before because we have more food banks in this country than at any other time than ever before because of over a decade of austerity.

"So I would say to Douglas Ross, to the UK Government, we will continue to advocate and to advance independence because we need it now more than ever before.”

Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservatives’ constitution spokesperson, has written to the Scottish Government’s permanent secretary John-Paul Marks to ask whether he had approved the appointment.

He said: “It’s a scandalous and flagrant attempt by Humza Yousaf to divert public money to promote the party-political goals of the SNP on a matter outside the Scottish government’s competence.”

He added: “The Supreme Court ruling last November was clear and unequivocal that the Scottish government has no authority to unilaterally hold an independence referendum – so there is no function for this minister other than cheerleading for the SNP.”

The Sunday National asked the UK Government for comment on how much funding has been allocated for supporting the Minister for the Union since 2019.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “All UK Government ministers act on behalf of the whole United Kingdom and ensure that its strength and benefits are clear, visible, and recognised by people across all parts of country.

“The Scottish Government benefitted from an additional £320m of funding as a result of decisions taken at Spring Budget. This is on top of the £1.5bn at Autumn Statement and the record £41bn per year settlement in the 2021 Spending Review.”