ALMOST £1,000 has been spent putting SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay through a “refresher public speaking" course to improve his performance, it has emerged.

It came as new figures show £7,212 has been splashed out by the Scottish Government over the last five years on media training for its top politicians.

Mr Mackay, whose delivery style was once compared to a constipated Dalek, sought the help of communications firm voicebusiness earlier this financial year for £972.12.

On its website, the company boasts of being able to turn “nervous wrecks into skilled presenters, polished public speakers, accomplished video presenters, effective networkers and excellent business communicators”.

Scottish Tory MSP Murdo Fraser said: “Derek MacKay may have felt he needed to spend public money to change his oratorical style from Dalek to Demosthenes.

“But it’s not speaking lessons he needed – it’s a course in how not to fleece hardworking people in Scotland.

“This money from the taxpayer may have helped him deliver the Budget more eloquently.

“But its contents remain deeply troubling, and will have a real impact on family finances right across Scotland.”

Data released under Freedom of Information rules shows a range of Scottish ministers received media training in recent months.

Most of this was provided through the Government’s own communications department.

However, in 2014/15 several top figures – including then-Justice Secretary Michael Matheson – received help from Pink Elephant Communications at a total cost to the taxpayer of more than £6,200.

The Glasgow-based firm helps people “build their confidence and overcome their fears”.

A Scottish Liberal Democrat spokeswoman said: “It would take more than a public speaking refresher course to help Derek Mackay hide his disdain for the SNP endorsed workplace parking tax.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “In common with senior positions in other large organisations a range of training is made available to ministers, including courses in media and public speaking skills.

"This training has an important role in supporting ministers in their delivery of official government business. These courses are delivered in-house where possible.”