CALLS have been made for an investigation of the Scotland Office after it emerged its spending on spin doctors has risen six-fold since the Tories first came to power at Westminster seven years ago.

New figures reveal the the communications spend has has risen by 40 per cent in the last year alone after Mundell had previously been criticised for spiralling costs.

The Mundell-controlled UK government department spent £686,166.29 of taxpayers' money in 2016/17 on spin doctors, over half a million pounds more that in 2010/11 when the David Cameron-controlled coalition came to power. That's over a quarter of a million pounds more in one year.

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HeraldScotland:

The bulging PR purse has been criticised at a time when Prime Minister Theresa May found £1bn to do a deal with the DUP to ensure a Tory majority in Parliament after telling nurses “there is no magic money tree” to increase their pay as living costs continue to rise.

Official figures also reveal "a small fortune" on social media advertising by the Scottish Office from around £1000 a month in February to nearly £12,000 in March, the month before Theresa May called the snap election.

Deidre Brock, the SNP's devolved government relations spokesman was shocked by the figures saying that that Mr Mundell "has got some serious questions to answer about what is going on here".

HeraldScotland:

The Edinburgh North and Leith MP said: “While everyone else in Scotland is suffering the cuts of the Tory Government David Mundell seems to be building himself a little empire.

"Instead of doing his job and delivering for Scotland he’s busy hiring a whole lot of people and spending a whole lot of money on advertising to tell us that everything is fine on his watch when things very clearly are not. If the Tories have been election campaigning at public expense, using our money, then it’s time for a serious investigation. Scotland deserves better than this shabby nonsense.”

She pointed out that the Wales Office has only spent £71 on social media advertising in the last year and a half – "that’s less than the Scotland Office was spending in an average week even before the sudden massive increase".

HeraldScotland: Scottish Secretary David Mundell has urged MPs to vote down the SNP's plans for full fiscal autonomy

It is not the first time a row has broken out over the cost of the Scotland Office's press operation.

In December, 2015, there was criticism when Mr Mundell planned to increase its complement of communications officers to nine that year at a cost of £474,000.

The SNP then launched a fierce attack on the spending - then a fourfold increase over five years - claiming Mr Mundell was running a "marketing campaign for the Union".

And in December, SNP MP Margaret Ferrier demanded to know why the Scotland Office "requires such an enormous increase in its budget" after receiving an almost 20% rise in the past five years.

She claimed the increasing devolution of responsibilities from Westminster to Holyrood has left the Scotland Office a "zombie department" and questioned the need for extra money.

HeraldScotland: Extra spending: SNP's Ferrier demands to know what additional Scotland Office funds are being spent on

Figures show the Scotland Office real terms budget, excluding so-called “non-voted election expenditure”, had increased for three out of five years since 2012/13 The 2016/17 budget had fallen by 0.4 per cent and it also fell by 2.8 per cent in 2013/14 but the remaining increases, including a 14.4 per cent hike in 2015/16, had resulted in a 19.9 per cent cumulative rise since 2012/13.

At the same time, Ms Ferrier pointed out, the real terms Scottish Government budget - excluding council tax benefit, landfill tax, stamp duty land tax and the Scottish rate of income tax as well as the £800 million capital budget increase pledged by Chancellor Philip Hammond in the 2016 Autumn Statement - had led to a cumulative 1.9 per cent decrease over the five years.

A UK government spokesman said in response to the criticism: “The communications team in the Scotland Office is resourced to enable effective engagement and communication with the public on matters relating to the UK Government.

"This includes supporting communications and engagement from the Secretary of State for Scotland and Parliamentary Under Secretary of State on Scotland’s constitutional arrangements, including the delivery and implementation of significant new tax and welfare powers associated with the Scotland Act 2016.

"More recently, the Department has undertaken significant engagement on the UK Government’s approach to EU Exit, meeting and feeding information directly to the UK negotiating team from a large number of businesses and organisations across a wide variety of sectors. The team also supports all UK Government departments in their communications activities in Scotland.”