The SNP has branded the Scotland Office a “marketing campaign for the Union” after uncovering figures showing its budget for press officers has more than quadrupled in five years.
According to the party, in 2010-11 the UK Government department employed two communications staff at a cost of £108,439.
This is projected to rise to nine at a cost of £474,000 in 2015-16, the SNP said.
MSP James Dornan, who represents Glasgow Cathcart, said people would be shocked by the figures, obtained by a freedom of information request.
He added: “The Scotland Office now spends half a million of its tiny budget on just nine press officers – a staff cost of almost £6,500 per press release since April.
“It is clear that the Scotland Office’s only role is as a marketing campaign for the union.
“David Mundell is Scotland’s sole Tory MP and represents a party that received its worst election result in Scotland since 1865 in this year’s general election.
“Scotland did not choose a Tory government, yet it is now paying hundreds of thousands to promote Tory policies.
“It is absurd that George Osborne has also chosen to protect the Scotland Office’s budget – he should remove the budget ring-fence for this pointless department.”
But a Scotland Office spokesman said the UK Government had a duty to inform the public about its policy and work.
He added: “These modest year-on-year increases bring the office into line with similar UK departments.
“It also adds new functions such as digital communications, ensuring key information reaches as many people in Scotland as possible.”
North-east Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones”.
He said: “I guess one of the things that’s interesting is the comparison with the Scottish Government’s marketing budget.
“For many years now it has been a marketing budget for breaking up the UK and I suspect it is many times larger.”
According to the Scottish Government’s spending plans and draft Budget 2016-17, £4.9million is allocated for public information and engagement, previously referred to as strategic communications, in 2015-16.
The sum, which falls within the parliamentary business and government strategy pot, is due to decrease to £2.8million in 2016-17.
According to the document, the money is used – among other things – to deliver public information and marketing which promotes Scotland around the world as a “modern, creative and dynamic nation”.