ALISTER Jack should “get over it”, the minister for independence has said, following reports that the Scottish Secretary attempted to block civil servants from working under him.

Jamie Hepburn, who was appointed to the ministerial role six weeks ago by First Minister Humza Yousaf, spoke about Jack’s demands on an episode of The National’s podcast Holyrood Weekly (due to be released this Friday).

Last week, it emerged that Jack had told the UK’s top civil servant that no government staff should be allowed to work under Hepburn, as well as the Scottish Government’s top official, permanent secretary John-Paul Marks.

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Speaking on the Holyrood Weekly podcast, Hepburn insisted that as the Scottish Parliament has a pro-independence majority, his role is entirely legitimate.

Asked what his response to Jack’s demand was, and if he had any staff working with him, Hepburn said: “Well, it's consistent with the approach he's taken to devolution more generally, I would say.

“In the first instance, it's not a surprise that he might come out with that.

“Again, I'm feeling relaxed, that's going to be his perspective. Of course, the permanent secretary has responded to the correspondence that others have written to him regarding the appointment of myself to this particular role.

“And he has been quite clear that it's entirely legitimate for a democratically elected Scottish Government, within its manifesto, having set out to seek to advance Scotland independence, to be able to utilise the resources of government to continue to advance that case.

“That's something that Alister Jack’s just gonna have to get over.”

Hepburn said that there were civil servants “working to the government’s agenda” and refuted suggestions officials had been barred from working with him.

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Asked if he believed that showed Jack doesn’t have the influence that he thinks he does, Hepburn said: “I think it shows it’s sabre-rattling, frankly.

“At the end of the day, if he thinks there shouldn't be a minister for independence, then the quid pro quo would be you'd expect the UK Government to abolish their Union Unit.

“I'm not expecting that they're going to do that.

The National: Hepburn is a guest on this week's episode of Holyrood WeeklyHepburn is a guest on this week's episode of Holyrood Weekly

“So he shouldn't be expecting that the Scottish Government's going to ditch independence anytime soon, and frankly, I'm not going anywhere.”

The row emerged after Labour peer George Foulkes wrote to Chancellor Jeremy Hunt over concerns about public cash being used to pay Hepburn’s ministerial salary.

Jack responded on behold of the UK Government, revealing that he had written to cabinet secretary Simon Case asking him to “advise on the constitutional propriety of appointing this ministerial role in light of United Kingdom Supreme Court's ruling of November 23, 2022”.

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The Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood did not have the legislative competence to pass a referendum bill, as the matter is reserved to the UK Government as it relates to the constitution.

Jack also requested assurance from Case that no UK civil servant will be engaged in the new department.

"I strongly believe in the need to uphold the reputation and impartiality of the civil service in Scotland and I understand that this is a matter for the Scottish Government permanent secretary in the first instance and my political colleagues have written to him on this matter,” Jack wrote.

The Scotland Office said it did not comment on internal correspondence. 

A spokesperson for the UK Government said: "Our strong desire is for both governments to fully focus on delivering on the priorities of people in Scotland: halving inflation, tackling the NHS waiting times, ensuring energy security, and growing our economy across the whole of the UK. We hope there will be no distractions from that." 

Episode 18 of Holyrood Weekly will be available on The National’s website, Spotify and the Omny streaming platform on Friday.