NICOLA Sturgeon has been criticised after hiring a failed SNP MP as a special adviser, taking the bill for her spin doctor team to more than £1m a year.

The First Minister’s appointment of Callum McCaig, who was rejected by voters in Aberdeen South, restores the number of special advisers to its previous record of 14.

The former council leader, 32, who lost his seat to Tory MSP Ross Thomson at the general election, will now advise Ms Sturgeon on finance and local government.

HeraldScotland:

Callum McCaig. Photo credit: Twitter

Special Advisers, or SpAds, are classed are temporary, rather than permanent, members of the civil service, and offer ministers political, policy and media advice.

The Scottish Government’s spin doctors earn between £51,000 and £84,000 each.

The Tories accused Ms Sturgeon of hypocrisy, noting she recently called the promotion of a failed Tory election candidate “an absolute abomination” and reward for failure.

Dr Ian Duncan became a peer and Scotland Office minister after failing to win in Perth.

Ms Sturgeon also appointed failed MSP Stewart Maxwell as a SpAd earlier this year.

In 2006, Alex Salmond said there was "certainly" a need for fewer SpAds, and when the SNP came to power a year later he initially made do with nine, before numbers crept up.

Total spending on Scotland’s SpAds has doubled since 2007 from £480,000 to £1.1m.

HeraldScotland:

Tory Murdo Fraser said: “For some reason, when the UK Government appoints former politicians it is an ‘absolute abomination’, according to Nicola Sturgeon.

“Yet in recent times, she has appointed two former SNP politicians to the public payroll.

“People are increasingly seeing through the SNP’s hypocritical ways.”

A spokesman for the First Minister said: “This is ludicrous hypocrisy from the Tories given recent revelations that spending by the Tory Scotland Office on spin doctors has increased six-fold since they took power.

“While the Scotland Office exists to act as apologists for whatever the Tory government inflicts on Scotland, the Scottish Government is absolutely focussed on delivering for the people of Scotland, including in the increased areas of devolved responsibility – as well as tackling the serious economic challenges posed by the Tories’ extreme Brexit.”