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And then there were 14: Holyrood record as Scottish Government hires another special adviser, taking pay bill to £1m

ALEX Salmond's government is today due to take on its 14th special adviser, a record number at Holyrood, which pushes the estimated overall bill to more than £1 million.

Labour accused the Scottish Government of "using the taxpayer as their personal bank account" to promote ­independence in the run-up to September's referendum.

Ross Ingebrigtsen, who has worked in the SNP's press office, is to move to the Scottish Government's communications department, joining a pool of 13 other "spads".

A Nationalist source confirmed that Mr Ingebrigtsen would begin his new job today and was not a replacement but an "additional" special adviser in the Government's communications department.

The SNP press operation has over the years helped to provide a number of spads to the Nationalist Government, including Kevin Pringle, Geoff Aberdein and Alexander Anderson.

In 2006, under the Labour administration led by Jack ­McConnell, there were 12 spads, costing £854,000. By the time Mr Salmond came to power in 2007, there were nine, costing £528,000. But this figure has steadily risen. By late 2012, there were 13 spads employed for £933,000.

At the time, the SNP stressed that in real terms the bill compared to Lord McConnell's administration was more than £50,000 less, when inflation was take into account; a claim that cannot be made today.

In previous years, the Government was barred from hiring more than 12 special advisers. However, this rule was scrapped in 2010 following UK legislation.

Special advisers are employed at public expense to give political advice to ministers, which would be inappropriate coming from impartial civil servants. While defenders of the system claim spads ease communications between ministers and the media and thus help with the smooth running of government, critics claim they are often party hacks who have simply politicised the civil service.

While the SNP Government's spad bill is now estimated to top £1m, it is small compared to that of the UK administration.

In October, official figures showed that the number of special advisers to Coalition ministers rose from 85 to 98 with the wage bill rising 16% to £7.2m - up £1m in just one year.

Last night, Paul Martin the Scottish Labour MSP, said: "It doesn't matter how many spinners Alex Salmond employs, it can't change the fact that Scots don't trust a word that comes out of his mouth.

"The SNP are using the taxpayer as their personal bank account. It is a remarkable approach to public finances in a time when there is such pressure on budgets."

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Local government

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