A row has broken out over the cost of the Scotland Office's press operation.

The Scotland Office plans to increase its complement of communications officers to nine in the current financial year, at a cost of £474,000.

The SNP launched a fierce attack on the spending - a fourfold increase compared with five year ago - claiming Secretary of State of Scotland David Mundell was running a "marketing campaign for the Union".

However the Scotland Office defended its press operation, which remains a fraction the size of the Scottish Government's team of communications officers and special advisers.

SNP MSP James Dornan said: "As the Tory government are implementing massive cuts to spending on public services and slashing the incomes of the poorest through welfare cuts, people will be shocked that they are spending over 430 per cent more on press officers for David Mundell.

"It is clear that the Scotland Office’s only role is as a marketing campaign for the Union.

"Scotland did not choose a Tory government, yet it is now paying hundreds of thousands to promote Tory policies."

The Scottish Government has earmarked a budget of £4.9million for "public information and engagement" in the current financial year.

In addition to a large press office ministers employ 14 special advisers, who are not bound by civil service rules of impartiality.

The cost of the spin doctors - the largest team of any administration since devolution - is about £1million.

A Scotland Office spokesman said: "The UK Government has a duty to inform the public about its policy and work.

"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."