A UNIONIST peer asked the Chancellor of the Exchequer to block Humza Yousaf’s new administration’s “illegal expenditure” on a Minister for Independence.

It comes after the Scottish Tories penned a letter to Scotland’s top civil servant, permanent secretary John-Paul Marks, raising concerns about the appointment of Jamie Hepburn to the newly created government position.

Having a minister for independence formed a key pledge during Yousaf’s SNP leadership bid, which proved successful on Monday after he narrowly beat rival Kate Forbes by 52% to 48%.

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But the appointment was always sure to attract anger from Unionists in opposition, and it has led to calls for the UK Government to intervene.

Labour peer George Foulkes said he had “written to the Chancellor of the Exchequer calling on him to step in to stop illegal expenditure by @scotgov on an ‘Independence Minister’”.

He added on Twitter: “I have received more emails and messages of outrage on the illegal expenditure on the so-called ‘Independence Minister’ than on any other subject.

“The UK Government must act now or the Scottish Government will know they can spend UK taxpayers' money on anything and get away with it.”

Speaking in the House of Lords on Thursday, Foulkes (below) asked: “Is the Minister aware that in Scotland we have had a Minister for Tourism … since 1999, but the current Government of Scotland have made no such appointment?

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“Instead, they have appointed a Minister for Independence, when the Prime Minister has rightly ruled out a referendum. As a Treasury Minister, will she [Tory peer Joanna Penn] get her officials to look into this unauthorised expenditure by the Scottish Government?”

Penn did not commit to the probe Foulkes had requested, instead saying: “I will say that it shows that the Scottish Government’s priorities lie in the wrong place, instead of seeking to address the priorities of the people of Scotland, whether it is tourism or improving their health and education systems.

“I think the people of Scotland would welcome a greater focus on those issues and less of a focus on something on which we recently had a referendum that settled the issue.”

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Former Scottish secretary Michael Forsyth then repeated Foulkes call, telling the Lords: “Surely this is a question of the propriety of the use of public funds. The Scottish Government are involved in spending public money on a matter for which they have no rights. If these people were in local government, they would be being surcharged.”

Penn repeated her previous answer, saying: “This absolutely demonstrates that the priorities of the Scottish Government lie in the wrong place and are not aligned with the people in Scotland.”

The National:

The Lords' comments came as the Scottish Tories’ constitution spokesperson, Donald Cameron, asked in a letter whether the permanent secretary had objected to the decision to appoint a Minister for Independence and whether his objections, if made, were overruled by the First Minister.

He also demanded to know Yousaf’s “justification” for spending “public money on an area” outside the powers of the Scottish Government, arguing that constitutional matters were reserved to Westminster.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: "The First Minister has appointed a ministerial team that reflects the priorities that he will pursue in government – including tackling child poverty, improving public services, building a fairer, greener economy, and giving people the information about devolution and independence that they need to make an informed choice about Scotland's constitutional future.

“The Permanent Secretary has received the letter from Mr Cameron and will respond in due course.”